Jeffery Simmons’ grip on his recruitment is nearly as strong as his handshake.
The Noxubee County (Miss.) High School defensive end doesn’t have a favorite school but has half a dozen or so in mind for official visits. Tennessee made that list and hosted the Scout No. 36 prospect in the nation over the weekend.
“I really enjoyed it,” Simmons told InsideTennessee. “Everything from the facilities to my host, everything was great.”
The Volunteers hosted South Carolina at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville and made the greatest impressions was the “game environment.”
“They played pretty good. When it was time to make plays, they made plays,” the Scout four-star said after watching the 27-24 Tennessee win from the front row of the recruiting section.
No official visit would be complete without sitting down with the Vols coaches, including third-year head man Butch Jones.
“They just said they love me,” Simmons said. “They like the way I’m looking on my film. They want to get me back up here.
“They said I’d fit in just right, especially with their D-ends. I’ve got the size already.
“This is their first year really on me. Like I was telling my coach, I wanted to come see what they have to offer me and come check it out myself.”
Defensive line coach Steve Stripling communicates with the Scout No. 1-rated defensive end out of the Magnolia State the most for Tennessee.
Simmons kept an eye on the Big Orange’s defensive front during the Vols victory.
“I feel like I’d fit in right with them,” Simmons said. “I did talk to (Derek Barnett) a little bit. I hung out with linebacker (Quarté) Sapp. (Sapp) is a pretty cool guy. I mean we hung out most of the whole weekend. We gained a relationship.
“(Sapp) told me they don’t show no favorites here. So, if you come in and work your butt off and you can play, you’re going to be able to take the field.”
The time in Knoxville was part of Simmons’ first official visit. He doesn’t have other official set up but listed Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss as programs possibly getting one. Tennessee undoubtedly helped itself in its pursuit of the South’s No. 3 defensive end.
“I feel like they’ll be on up there in my recruitment,” said Simmons, who points to his speed and quickness coming off the ball as his greatest attribute. “I have no favorites. I mean there’s a reason why I took this official — to see what they have to offer.
“Tennessee broke down a lot of things, especially on the tour. I feel like this one (visit) helped a lot.”
The Macon, Mississippi, native knows what he wants in a school and may return to Big Orange Country in the winter.
“First, just the people I want to be around, the relationship with them and the relationship with the coaches,” he said.
“When it comes to the recruiting process, I’m going to pick my choice on the people I want to be around. I feel like Tennessee has some great people.
“I did tell coach, when I do take my other officials, I want to come back and see (Tennessee again) before I finalize everything.”
After the 2016 season, the Vols may lose Barnett to the NFL Draft and will graduate other such as LaTroy Lewis and Corey Vereen. Simmons could find himself in the two-deep as a sophomore.
“Even though I’m probably going to have guys in front of me, I’m not scared of competition. So, when I come in, they’re going to work my tail off and I’m going to try to get on the field,” said Simmons, who has 4.96 speed.
Don’t expect a declaration this fall from the No. 6 defensive end in the nation.
“It will probably be a signing day decision, he said.
Simmons does not plan to enroll in January. He committed to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.