In landing the highest ranked quarterback prospect left in a class loaded with solid to sensational signal callers, the Vols not only pulled off a recruiting coup and coastal raid, they also opened the door to the Golden State's rich reserves of gridiron talent.
Furthermore they added a player who is just coming into his own with plenty of room to grow. And they beat the Florida Gators for his services as well as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Stanford and a host of other prominent pigskin powers.
None of this came as a surprise to Upland High School head coach Tim Salter, who has watched the recruiting battle for Nunes from the beginning.
"I think Tennessee was always one of his top choices," Salter said during an interview Thursday. "I was excited for him. I at one time thought that maybe he would go to Stanford. When he told me he was going to Tennessee I was just so happy for him. He'll be a great fit. I think Tennessee has a lot to offer him."
Asked how Nunes' skill set and intangibles are tailor made for UT, he explained:
"Offensively what Tennessee's done in the past and what it looks like they're doing in the future. I think he handled that stuff really well. He's a very good play-action quarterback. He's good under center. We use him a lot in shotgun but we used him a lot under center in the past, too. He's a very good reader on the line. He can check plays and not only pass plays. He is able to check and run at bubbles because he understands blocking schemes. So he's very good with check-me-on-the-line and I know Tennessee does a lot of that. He's a real student of the game so I think that's a big plus. I think just from watching them in the past, the style they run is a good fit for him because of the type of throws they make — the deep out, 15-20 yard dig routes over the middle. He throws those really well because he's got a real strong arm."
Salter credits the Vols' success in landing Nunes on the recruiting approach they took and persistence they maintained. Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson spearheaded UT's efforts.
"The main thing I thought was the way he was being recruited by Tennessee," Salter said. "Coach Clawson, in particular, came across really honest, really sure of what he wanted from Josh. How Josh fit into the program. It was like a weekly thing so there was never any down time as far communication back and forth. I thought they did a great job of recruiting him.
Salter was taken a bit off guard by his QB's decision to commit to UT without visiting the campus, but again credits the coaches.
"It was a little bit surprising to me too because we've been trying to go out and take an unofficial visit," he said. "I can say is that Coach Clawson and Coach Fulmer came across so well to Josh and made Josh feel so wanted that he puts a lot of trust in what they say."
Nunes was hoping to visit Knoxville when his team played in the Adidas 7-on-7 tournament scheduled for Atlanta, July 30, 31. Now that's off the table because it starts too close to Upland's season opener. The governing body of high school athletics in California has a rule that prohibits teams from doing anything other than weight lifting and conditioning three weeks prior to the season opener.
The good news is that he may be in Knoxville sooner than originally planned and UT fans could get to see him in action.
"There may be a way we can actually do that now, as unbelievable as it sounds," said Salter. "Because Josh committed to Tennessee we may actually be able to fly back and play in another Adidas tournament at the University of Tennessee on the 18th and 19th of July. We're trying to work on a deal to see if they're willing to pick up the tab to fly us back from Tennessee."
In an odd twist a group of Tennessee fans are planning an official visit to Upland for Nunes' first home game this fall.
"I was at the passing league last night and Josh's dad was in the stands with his orange hat on with the big T," Salter stated. "His mom had orange on and Josh said the warmth he feels from the fans just from the Internet chat rooms has been overwhelming. They're even talking about a big group of Tennessee fans coming out to our home opener and turning loose a bunch of orange and white balloons. There's a lot of Tennessee fans in southern California and they've really made him feel wanted."
There is a growing list of Tennessee fans in Nunes' hometown as well as on Upland's campus.
"I told Coach Fulmer the other night I was blown away with the way our players responded to Josh going to Tennessee," Salter recalled. "We all got together after warm ups and stretches and we had about 130 players out there that make up our JV and varsity teams. I had Josh stand up and announce where he was going to school and I was overwhelmed by the cheers from our kids. They were genuinely excited he picked Tennessee. Once again I attributed a lot of that to television. They're on television so much it's just a school a lot of our kids identify with too.
"I've already had a bunch of kids ask me if we can practice in the morning on Labor Day so we can watch Tennessee play UCLA on television."
It just goes to show the borders of Big Orange Country are boundless.
Editor's Note: See the next issue of Rocky Top News for an in-depth feature on Josh Nunes.