Others may have everything seemingly in place only to see a coaching change put a fork in the path. That happened to Jashon Robertson and the Scout three-star went from being a long-time Vanderbilt pledge to a future with Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee in a blink of an eye.
After being verbally committed to Vanderbilt for over 16 months, the Nashville native opened up his recruitment with a Commodores head coaching change as James Franklin jumped on an offer to lead Penn State's program.
Robertson wasn't on the market long as he declared his intentions to be a Vol on Jan. 15.
Given what was a firm pledge to the Commodores, Robertson didn't have too much interest from hearing from other programs. So, Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his assistants had ground to make up after the recruit opened things up.
"When Butch first came in, I talked to him one day at school," Robertson said. "But, other than that, I remained very solid to Vanderbilt. We kind of got back in touch. Things happen for a reason; I tend to believe that. I feel like I'm at the right place, for sure."
A factor in joining the Orange & White was Tennessee midyear enrollee and four-star running back Jalen Hurd, who played with Robertson back in their early teenage years at Montgomery Bell Academy.
"Me and Jalen, we've always had dreams of playing together and going to the same college and everything," Robertson said. "So, that was a bit of a factor. Then, of course, his mother Tara (Smotherman) and everyone else were big advocates of Tennessee and really tried to expose the great things about Tennessee."
As a senior, Robertson tormented opposing offensive lines, totaling 74 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five pass breakups and four sacks. Although he played both sides of the ball for MBA, he figures to at least start out on defense on The Hill.
"They're telling me the defensive tackle position is a high area of need," Robertson said. "I think I'm strong enough to play defensive tackle. Of course, I'm open to anything that can get me the opportunity to get on the field and into the game. I'm hoping it's defensive tackle, but I sure don't have a problem blocking for my brother (Hurd) on the offensive side. Either way, it's fine."
The Vols graduated their entire starting defensive front following the 2013 season. So, newcomers like the mid-state talent have a genuine shot at starting sooner rather than later. Given his size (6 feet 3, 295 pounds) and strength (bench presses over 400, squats over 500), Robertson could see himself in the rotation at defensive tackle.
"I'm definitely going to work to the best of my abilities to help create and make opportunities for myself," he said. "That's really a goal of mine. I wake up every morning thinking about it. When I train and when I lift, all I think about is the opportunity to play. So, I'm going to give it all I've got, and we'll see what happens." Teaching the finer points on the interior of the Tennessee defense is assistant coach Steve Stripling. He and Robertson have relationship building to do.
"I plan on definitely molding that relationship some more and everything, but I just recently started talking to coach Strip," the three-star said.
Robertson, who won the 2013 TSSAA Division II state individual wrestling championship in the 285-pound class and finished runner-up in 2012, talks about hand violence and the "refusal to be blocked" being paramount with trench success. He even cites NFL linemen like Ndamukong Suh and J.J. Watt for their ferocity.
"With wrestling, of the course the hand speed and hand placement, it definitely helps out with that," Robertson said. "The biggest thing it helps out with is…when you wrestle and when you get put on your back, it takes a type of mentality and type of determination and type of resilience to get off your back and fight as hard as you can. That just resembles maybe a moment in time in football when you have a bad play or your team is down and you have to rally back. It definitely helps with the foot speed, too."
He visited Knoxville the weekend of Jan. 24 but doesn't have other trips planned currently. The lineman doesn't know the exact date but plans to enroll in Knoxville this summer, most likely in June.
Robertson says he has a "B average" and scored a 22 on the ACT his lone attempt. He is undecided on a major but may steer toward something "Math related."
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