4-star safety Todd Kelly Jr has committed to the Tennessee Volunteers.
Kelly easily represents the marquee recruiting pickup in the early going of the Butch Jones era of Volunteers football, and he brings a ton to the table for Tennessee.
He's 6'1'', 190 pounds and is ranked as the No. 7 safety in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Even more important may be the fact that he's ranked as the No. 2 recruit from the state of Tennessee (247Sports Composite).
In-state recruiting is crucial, especially for a head coach in his first season at a major SEC program, so the importance of this pickup cannot be understated for Jones and the Volunteers.
Dave Hooker of ESPN.com reports on the commitment:
Todd Kelly Jr. committed to the Volunteers, a day after Tennessee began spring practice.
"Yes sir!" Kelly said in a text message. "Vols baby!"
Kelly Jr. went on to explain why he committed to Tennessee so early into the process, per Hooker's report:
Asked why he committed now, Kelly said: "The real question is why not now? I feel confident about the decision and my blood runs orange!"
The in-state pickup is absolutely huge for Tennessee, so that has to be the first takeaway from this commitment. In a conference as competitive as the SEC is in recruiting, controlling your state, "territory" and pipelines is crucial.
If Jones wants to lead Tennessee up the ranks in the SEC it's going to start with recruiting, so this commitment is a big statement from him and his staff.
It's an even bigger statement when you consider that Jones missed out on 2013 safety Vonn Bell, who grew up as a Tennessee fan. Affinity plays a big factor in recruiting so it's important for the Volunteers to land the recruits that grow up as "Tennessee guys." Much like Brady Hoke at Michigan recruits "Michigan Men," the culture of affinity for Tennessee football in 2013 has to be established.
This is a big step in the right direction for the Volunteers. Kelly Jr. is the son of Todd Kelly Sr., who is a former Tennessee defensive end standout and first-round NFL draft pick (Pick No. 27, San Francisco 49ers, 1993).
As a football player, the Volunteers are obviously getting a talented recruit.
Kelly is exceptionally athletic and has the ability to make plays in all phases of the game. As a safety he displays good speed, range and above-average physicality. He has the athleticism and skill to go up and make a play on the ball, and is a threat to score on defense.
He's a pure playmaker on defense and is extremely strong against the run. Kelly has a good break and footwork that allows him to fly down to the line of scrimmage to close on the ball. He's definitely a downhill defender and he has all the potential to be the next great Tennessee safety.
Kelly can also be a very effective punt returner because of his speed, elusiveness and vision. If Tennessee felt creative enough, Kelly has the ability to be a very shifty runner out of the backfield as well, so he could play offense if Jones and his staff wanted to fully utilize their new recruit's talents.
Landing Kelly is undoubtedly the biggest recruiting pickup of the Jones era, but it may very well be a sign of more things to come for Tennessee.