By Rhiannon Potkey – Heightened expectations usually drive ticket sales, and the Tennessee football program is no different.
The Vols open the season on Thursday (TV: SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.) against Appalachian State ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll and No. 10 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
“It’s exciting right now, and it’s the first time we have sold out of season ticket sales since 2001, and it is a little under 73,000 season tickets,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Wednesday during the SEC Coaches Teleconference. “So the excitement is high, and we are going to need a home-field advantage Thursday night.”
The number of season tickets sold by UT is 72,700.
Tennessee has made a steady climb under Jones. The program has gone from five wins his first season in 2013 to nine wins last season to being projected as the SEC East champions this season.
Jones credits much of that upward momentum to UT’s in-state recruiting pipeline.
“When we came here we talked about the respect we had for Tennessee high school football and the high school coaches in this great state and the relationships that needed to be built and if you look at the expectations and really the turnaround of our program, everyone has laid that foundation, but it’s really stemmed from the Tennessee kids,” Jones said. “We talked about leaving a legacy and staying at home and you look at every great program it starts with your in-state first and foremost.”
To help ensure they get the right prospects, the UT coaches create extensive profiles on Tennessee high school recruits.
“Like I tell our staff all the time, we need to know everything and anything about every high school player in this state and then we will make the decision on whether they fit our profile or not,” Jones said. “But there isn’t going to be anyone in the country who knows more about our in-state players from a character standpoint, from an ability standpoint and all the other things that go into it.”
Berry Ready: Jones said junior Evan Berry “is 100 percent. He is ready to go and he will be our kickoff returner,” against Appalachian State.
Berry missed some preseason practices with what Jones called an “undisclosed injury.”