Legacy recruits have been a hot topic around the Tennessee program recently following the decommitment of 5-star offensive lineman prospect Cade Mays.
One former player, whose son was a notable recruit last year, joined Jayson Swain on The Swain Event to discuss what it’s like as a former player to watch the current state of the program. Aaron Hayden had that unique perspective added to the fact that his son, Chase, was recruited by Tennessee but chose to play at Arkansas instead.
During an expansive interview, Swain suggested that legacy recruits are a big deal to former players and fans.
“Fans assume you have a son, you played at Tennessee, doesn’t matter what’s going on at Tennessee or the coach that you should just send your kid there because you played there, and that’s not always the case,” Swain said.
Hayden responded to Swain by saying recruits have a different view of the current program and state of college football than players in the 1990s, for example.
“Tennessee is not Tennessee. Tennessee is Vanderbilt, and I hate to say that. But I have to be honest when you think of people competing for championships,” Hayden said. “Those kids didn’t experience beating Florida and being in Neyland Stadium when we played Florida or we beat Alabama, or we’re playing Ohio State in a New Year’s Day bowl game. That’s our reality. But those kids’ reality is trying to get to 6-6 to get to a bowl game.”
Given Tennessee’s 4-5 record and embattled coach Butch Jones facing an expected firing, Hayden said top recruits don’t have to feel the pull to the program because it’s not at the top of college football like it was 20-plus years ago.
“If I’m a top recruit, I’m just thinking about if I’m Cade Mays or if I’m (his father) Kevin Mays that kid deserves to play for a championship,” Hayden said. “He walks in at Clemson he’s probably starting, not next year but maybe the year after that. Why should you lower your expectations because your dad graduated or played at the University of Tennessee? I think that’s ludicrous. Tennessee should always have a leg up and they shouldn’t lose a legacy recruit, but they have, and they’ve done it consistently up under this coach.”