Five-star Hurd picks Tennessee

If there was any question of whether first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his staff could keep in-state talent home, it’s time to put those doubts to rest.

Five-star running back Jalen Hurd has committed to play college football at Tennessee.

On Thursday morning, the Vols’ coaching staff received a call from one of the nation’s top prospects in the Class of 2014, running back Jalen Hurd of Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tenn.

The reason for the call was simple: The five-star prospect has made a decision that will excite an entire fan base.

“I have committed to Tennessee,” an excited Hurd said. “The decision just came natural to me. The first time I visited with the new staff (Feb. 16), it clicked with me and I knew that Tennessee is where I wanted to be. I feel like in my heart this is the place I need to be, and can’t wait to play for my home-state university.”

The decision to commit early to Tennessee was due in large part to Jones and his vision for the Vols’ program.

“Coach Jones is a real genuine guy,” Hurd said. “I just love him. I met his family when I went down there, and they are great. He feels that I fit in perfectly as a running back and that I’m a game-changer for the program. With the new staff, and where they are headed, it’s the place for me. I’m going to do everything I can to help get the program going again.”

Hurd, who is full of pride for his home state, said today is a dream come true.

“I’ve grown up watching Tennessee,” he said. “My grandparents are huge Tennessee fans. For me to stay home and play for the Vols is a dream come true. It’s been amazing the love I have received from the fans. There isn’t another college that has the fans showing me love like Tennessee. I get 50 to 100 Twitter messages a day from people telling me they hope I play at Tennessee. All the ‘Rise and grind’ messages and telling me to be a part of the new class at Tennessee is awesome. It’s a love you get from the home-state fans that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The commitment of Hurd, the No. 10-ranked prospect in the Top247, comes on the heels of another Top247 prospect — safety Todd Kelly Jr. of Webb School of Knoxville (Tenn.) — committing to the Vols on Sunday.

“We have talked a little, and I’m excited that he is going to Tennessee, too,” Hurd said. “I knew Tennessee was where I was going before he committed, so it’s not that his decision affected mine, but I’m happy that he is coming, too. I’m excited all of the guys committed are coming and hope a lot more make the same decision.”

The 2014 U.S. Army All-American wasn’t affected by the departure of former running backs coach Jay Graham.

“Coach Jay Graham had told me a lot about the university and my position at Tennessee, but he has left, of course,” Hurd said. “I have talked to (new running backs) Coach (Robert) Gillespie, and I love him and am excited to play for him.”

Hurd selected Tennessee over Florida, Ohio State and Vanderbilt. He also had verbal offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ole Miss, North Carolina and a number of others.

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