That beeping sound coming off of Rocky Top is the moving van backing its way up to a dormitory on Tennessee’s campus this weekend.
Jaquain “Jay” Blakely is among the Vols signees from the 2016 class en route to bolster a Team 120 roster that already has championship aspirations.
“I like the way the program is heading,” Blakely told InsideTennessee. “The guys…as (Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones said, ‘They laid the foundation.’ It’s my job to come in with the same mindset that they have and that’s just to get better and win and basically put Tennessee where it should be up in that top elite group where it should be.”
The linebacker comes from a Colquitt County (Ga.) High School team that finished ranked No. 7 nationally by Scout, including a 2015 GHSA Class AAAAAA state championship.
That pedigree is just what Jones wants all up and down his roster as the Big Orange attempts to get over the hump, including breaking losing streaks like the 11-game skid to Florida and the nine straight years of losing to Alabama.
“About breaking the streaks, I would love to be a part of that team that beat Florida and broke the streak or beat Alabama and broke the streak,” Blakely said. “I would love to be a part of that team. Down here in South Georgia, I’ve been a part of history so much down here that I would love to go off and be a part of some more history.”
Jones and Colquitt County coach Rush Propst have similar traits according to the incoming Volunteer.
“(Propst) is the real deal,” Blakely said. “I love him to death. He’s like my Pops. He’s very straightforward. To be honest, he reminds me…him and coach Jones are very similar in what they talk about and how they approach situations. That’s why I think I really click with coach Jones because of the mentality that he has and how he wants to be great and beyond great. Coach Propst always preached to us about not being a good team but being an elite, great team. I think coach Jones has installed that into the players there now that it’s not only good to be this great, you’ve got to be in the elite great. I think that’s where Tennessee is going to have that edge, where we’re going to have our edge and overcome a lot and make a little history.”
The Scout No. 56 outside linebacker in his class suffered a torn labrum during his senior prep season. He’s since been able to get back to work and is up to 6-feet-3, 235 pounds. That size could get Blakely on the field earlier in his career than originally expected.
Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen told Blakely that he could play any spot between MIKE, SAM and Will. Another person that has much to do with playing time decisions is first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
“He’s a pretty chill guy,” Blakely said of Shoop. “He likes to swarm, he likes to attack the ball and that’s basically it. He’s going to swarm and get after you. That’s the mentality that I was brought up with down here in the South, just swarm and get after it.”
Blakely makes the move from Moultrie, Georgia, to Knoxville on Sunday. He will wear No. 48 for the Volunteers.