Jaquain "Jay" Blakely will see a dream realized Wednesday as he signs his National Letter of Intent with Tennessee.
The Colquitt County (Ga.) High School defender plans to ink at 9 a.m. Eastern in the school auditorium. Blakely estimated that “20-plus” of his teammates will sign scholarships and “maybe 10” going to the Division I level.
To merely solidify his decision, the Scout three-star prospect and No. 56 outside linebacker in the 2016 class made the 414-mile trek from Moultrie, Georgia, to Rocky Top for an official visit over the weekend.
“Oh man, I don’t know where to begin,” Blakely told InsideTennessee. “We did so much in so little time. It was great, just hanging with the guys — the committed guys and the guys that we’re trying to get — and hanging with the players. My player host was (Tennessee tight end) Jakob (Johnson). Just chilling and getting to know Knoxville in more depth than just inside the stadium and inside the facility, getting around and seeing the support that we have in Knoxville. It’s just great.”
Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen got Blakely comfortable with life in orange early in the process. With over a dozen members of Team 120 and a dozen official visitors going to dinner Friday evening, Blakely got the sense of family.
“(Thigpen) had me freaking feeling like I was a part of the team already,” Blakely said, “even though I was just on an unofficial visit and even though I had not committed. I mean since Day 1 he had me feeling like I was part of the team.
“When I went and seen (Tennessee running back) Alvin Kamara (on the official visit) — I played against him as a matter of fact in high school — it brought back memories with him. Seeing (quarterback Joshua) Dobbs and (cornerback) Cam Sutton and other guys, it really made me feel like I was part of the team.”
The Scout No. 19 outside linebacker in the South was in attendance to see the Volunteers beat up on Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival Vanderbilt 53-28 at Neyland Stadium as part of a crowd of 98,327 back on Nov. 28.
“It was pretty packed,” Blakely said. “From where I’m from in South Georgia, we have a small town that is all about football. I mean that’s what it is. This is like the SEC of high school football down here in South Georgia. The (Tennessee) fan base, gosh, that’s another reason why I chose it. They’re a strong fan base. They’re a supportive fan base. They follow the guys. They support the guys in everything they do.
“I talked to Cam Sutton while I was there (over the weekend) and he was telling me about when you’re in that locker room and you’re getting ready to run through the T, there’s no better feeling.”
Jones, Thigpen and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni visited Blakely’s home in late January. Vols coaches see Blakely playing on the second level of the Tennessee defense.
“As of right now, I’ll be a linebacker,” the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder said. “Coach Thig was telling me I could play all three positions.”
A torn labrum suffered during his senior season caused Blakely to have surgery. It was his second shoulder injury. That’s slowing down his progress in the weightroom.
Blakely plans to enroll at Tennessee on June 24 and will wear No. 48. He does not yet know who is roommate will be. He is one of several players that will be on the Vols roster that has championship pedigree as his Packers went 30-0 between 2014 and 2015 combined.
The 'backer competed for one of the finest prep teams in the nation as Colquitt County earned the 2015 GHSA Class AAAAAA state championship with a 30-13 win over Roswell, finishing No. 7 in the final Scout Top 50. In the postseason, Colquitt County won its games by an average of 25.2 points per game.
“My junior year and my senior season I have not lost one game,” Blakely said.