The record-breaking Beech running back also gave plenty of credit to new Vols coach Butch Jones on Thursday.
“I really wanted to go to UT,” Hurd said. “Last year, they weren’t in such a good position for me to go there, but with Coach Jones and the new staff, I think it’s the best place for me to go.
“I want to be able to help get other players to come be a part of the ‘rise and grind.’ (Jones’) philosophy is, ‘If you’re not getting the best players from your own state, how can you expect guys from other states to come here?’ I want to be a part of Tennessee’s uprising.”
“It wasn’t unexpected, but certainly the timing was unexpected,” said Barton Simmons, an analyst from 247sports. com “I think getting him in this early is almost as important as getting him in at all, just because of the impact he can have on the rest of the class.
“An in-state kid with the prestige and pull he has around the state and really around the country is something they can really build on and build a class around.”
Beech football coach Anthony Crabtree said he was a little surprised Hurd committed now.
“Not too long ago, I thought he was probably going to wait until football season, later in football season,” Crabtree said. “But things happen. Players have conversations, talk to other players that are being recruited. If they just have a place in their hearts that they feel like they want to be, why not go ahead and commit if that’s what you want to do?”
Hurd visited Knoxville for the Vols’ home basketball game against Kentucky last month and spent two days getting acquainted with Jones.
“I got to spend about four or five hours each day with Coach Jones,” Hurd said. “He is such a genuine person, and I feel like I’ve developed a good relationship with him and the coaching staff.”
Hurd said he had also been considering Ohio State and Florida.
Hurd said recent Volunteer commitments Vic Wharton III of Independence and Todd Kelly Jr. of Knoxville Webb had been trying to convince him to join them with mentions on Twitter. But Hurd said he didn’t need the extra convincing.
“He’s actually known for probably a couple of weeks,” said his mother, Tara Smotherman. “After Todd committed, I think that was more of an incentive. A couple of days ago, he said, ‘I’m ready to commit.’ We sat down and he told me all the reasons why, and I said, ‘OK.’ But he purposely waited a few days because he didn’t want to steal any of Todd’s thunder.”
“It was just between Tennessee and Ohio State. He loved the relationship he had built with the staff in Ohio as well. But after everything was said and done, he wanted to stay home.”
Hurd plans to graduate from Beech in December and be an early enrollee at Tennessee.
Hurd said Jones wants him to remain at running back. One of Hurd’s offseason goals was to add some extra weight.
“I’m weighing in around 231 or 232 pounds right now,” said the 6-foot-3 Hurd, who was listed at 210 last season. “I’m right around where I want to be.”
Hurd broke the state single-season record for rushing yards in 2012 with 3,357 yards and had 43 touchdowns.
His 394-yard, seven-touchdown effort in the Bucs’ state championship victory over Columbia also broke BlueCross Bowl records.