Jacob Lacey is only a sophomore, but Tennessee took full advantage of hosting the defensive tackle for a junior day two weekends ago.
The Vols offered the 6-foot-2, 301-pounder a year ago at the Orange & White spring game, and they’ve managed to grasp the interest of the South Warren (Ky.) High School lineman ever since.
“It was great, you know,” Lacey said of his visit to Knoxville. “I’ve been up there three or four times. But every time I go, it’s always exciting getting to see coach (Tennessee offensive line coach Walt) Wells and coach (Steve Stripling) and meeting up with coach (Brady) Hoke, the new defensive line coach. He seems like a really fantastic coach. It’s always fun to go back down to Tennessee."
Though the D-line coaching staff change occurred earlier this month, Lacey was pleased with his encounter with the new position coach Hoke, and was happy to hear that Stripling would remain a member of the Vols’ coaching staff.
“As soon as we came up to the front desk, (Hoke) was waiting there,” Lacey said. “You could just tell that he’s a hard-core, get-it-done, if-you-can’t-do-it, don’t-do-it type of guy, and I really like that. They told us in position meetings that, you know, he’s all in it for the kids. He’s wanting them to do their best and he’ll get it out of you in any way possible, and that was really good to hear. You could just tell that all the other coaches jut accepted him right in and did their very best to help him adjust to his new job.
“I was just glad (Stripling) was still on the staff. Most coaches, if they don’t get the job they want they move on, but the fact that he wanted to stay at Tennessee proves how great Tennessee actually is, so it’s kind of cool that he’s still around in the program.”
Apart from viewing the Big Orange coaching staff as some of the “best in the world,” several other aspects about the campus cause Tennessee to stand out in his mind.
“The very first impression I got about Tennessee was that it’s a big school, big place,” the D-tackle said. “And then we sat down and it’s only like 21,000 people, and the school down here at Western Kentucky is about that size. So the fact that they have really great football plus great academics with small classes. That was one of the big things that really kind of hit me."
While attending last season’s unbelievable matchup versus Florida, he experienced the electricity of Neyland Stadium at its finest, and Vol Nation did not disappoint.
“I was at the Tennessee Florida game,” he said. “It was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been to. It was great. My mom, she’s not a very big football fan, and she was cheering louder than anyone I’ve ever seen. It was kind of embarrassing at one point! But you know when you get my mom into something, it’s going to have a long-lasting impact.”
The idea of Tennessee being relatively close to his hometown is yet another plus for Lacey, who also holds offers from schools like Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Penn State.
“Tennessee was, I think, my very first SEC offer,” he said. “It’s close to home, all the coaches are great. There’s nothing bad I can say about Tennessee. Hopefully schools are going to keep coming and things like that, but I’m always going to keep (Tennessee) close towards the top because they’re one of the places I’ve known the longest.
“Tennessee is still a favorite for me — Tennessee and Louisville. They’re close to home, which will always be good for my family. But for me, it’s more of a God situation. If I have to go two days away in California, or two hours away in Louisville, it doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I get to play.”
Lacey, who is maintaining an open mindset during his recruitment process, visited Penn State this past weekend. His next visit this spring will be at Clemson on March 4.
“(Clemson) invited me up,” he said. “They got a new defensive line coach, we talked for a good while. So I’ll be up there.”
His summer plans include attending Nike Football The Opening regionals in Cleveland as well as a camp in Atlanta.
As for Tennessee, Lacey and his family “definitely” intend on making their way back to Rocky Top, and it may be sooner than later.
“We’ll definitely be coming back for a game (in the fall), but we might come up for a spring practice or for the spring game for sure,” he said. “That was really fun (last year), getting to have some one-on-one time with the coaches. We’ll definitely be back up pretty soon.”
While it is still early in his recruiting process, the Class of 2019 prospect from Bowling Green, Kentucky, is still exploring his options before developing a top school list.
“I know (my top school list) is going to have to come out sometime towards the beginning of the season this year,” Lacey said. “With Louisville, Michigan State and all those schools, it’s going to take me a little more thinking to get that list together, plus whatever is coming this summer. I don’t really have one favorite. Everything is still kind of wide open.”