Tennessee didn’t waste time being the first program in the door for JaCoby Stevens.
Over two years after offering the athletic talent from the mid-state after his freshman season on the prep level, the pursuit of the now-Scout 100 prospect is up a few notches with Stevens no longer verbally committed to LSU.
The 6-foot-1 ¼, 200-pounder that ranks as the Volunteer State’s No. 1 athlete in the 2017 class checked out a junior day on Rocky Top on Saturday.
“Tennessee is definitely back on my radar,” Stevens said. “Tennessee is a team that is going to be taken seriously for the next year — I guess you could say months now. But, yeah, they’re back on my radar. They’re just a team that I like. This visit really helped them just like the Georgia visit helped Georgia last week.
“I’m definitely going to visit UT again. This is definitely a school that I’m going to be coming back to and visit often. These other schools I’m going to visit often. UT kind of put themselves in that mix where I’m going to come back and study and see how the coaches coach their players, how the players respond to the coaches, stuff like that.”
From coach Butch Jones to new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop to defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, Tennessee is making it a team effort to get the Oakland (Tenn.) High School standout to Knoxville.
“It was great seeing Shoop back in town and talking to coach Shoop and coach Jones,” Stevens said. “I talked to coach Martinez. It was great. Just showing me where I’d be playing if I do come to Tennessee.
It had been over a year since Stevens made the trek east on Interstate-40 from Murfreesboro to Knoxville. Breaking down film and giving Stevens a visual image of how he could help the future of Tennessee’s defense provided clarity.
“This time I was here I got more clarification,” said Stevens, who ranks as the No. 55 prospect in the nation. “The past times I was here, I wasn’t — of course, I went to a game and the coaches were busy — clear at first with what they wanted me at. But now I took it upon myself to ask my questions and when you take the process more serious and I got my questions answered. Now I’m more clear on where they want me.
“(The visit) helps because of the clarification, clarifying where they want me to be, Shoop being a great guy, talking to coach Jones — I’d never talked to coach Jones ever like I did today. I talked to coach Jones a lot. I’d say they helped themselves a lot because of just clarification.
“They just rant and rave about how I’m versatile and how they can use me in different places and use me in different (defensive) packages. Them telling me that and me actually figuring that out and me feeling like they’re being honest to me, helps me a lot.”
The relationship between Stevens, who once played at Nashville’s Ensworth School, and Shoop undoubtedly gives Tennessee a lift over some other programs.
“I spent most of my time (at junior day) with coach Shoop and coach Martinez, kind of half and half,” Stevens said. “We talked a lot and it was nice, it was nice that I got to talk to him, just kind of picking up where we left off at Vanderbilt.
“We’ve been talking on the phone before I got here. We text back and forth every night. We call each other, talk to coach Martinez, he comes up to the school, we talk and we text. So I’ve been talking to them for awhile, especially since coach Shoop came back. It’s been nice.”
On the Team 120 roster are several Volunteers that have either worked out with or played with Stevens in the mid-state.
“Just talking to (Tennessee freshman offensive lineman) Jack Jones and how he’s loving it, just playing with him for a year and working out with him for about two years, it felt comfortable,” Stevens said. “Josh Malone, he’s a laid back guy just like I am. Of course I worked out with him. We worked out with the same guys, same organization. So that’s like another brother here. You have Vincent Perry here working out; we’ve known each other for about a year. (RaShaan) Gaulden. Kyle Phillips. I mean it’s like they say, they’re using in-state talent and when you use in-state talent, you attract more of the younger guys. It’s kind of like a brotherhood.”
The Vols staff wants him to visit for a spring practice.