Tennessee was able to get one of its top targets in the 2018 cycle back on campus Saturday as Azeez Ojulari attended Orange Carpet Day.
“Got to spend time with the coaches, great atmosphere, it was just a fun day, got to play golf, softball,” Ojulari said. “It was fun just hanging around the coaches and everything.
“Tennessee, they’re showing me a lot of love. It’s like family-oriented, so I like that a lot too. I’m comfortable here. That’s something that’s big in my decision too.
“Laid back, fun day. It was hot, but I mean the people I met, the coaches, it was all about family here. I’m just excited.”
The Marietta (Ga.) High School defensive end was accompanied by family.
“They like it a lot — all of them, mom, dad, younger brother,” Ojulari said. “They all like (it). It’s comfortable. It’s good.”
The Vols saw the program leader for sacks leave for the NFL Draft when Derek Barnett declared in January. It remains to be seen if they have someone on the roster who can make up that level of production. Either way, explosive athletes rushing the passer and setting the edge are a focal point for the 2018 class.
“There’s real opportunities,” said Ojulari, who also tripped to Knoxville for the DISH Orange & White game in April. “They’re heavy on me, so they’re going to be at the top of my group. They’re recruiting me hard. I get a text from them like every week — (Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones, (assistant) coach (Nate) Ollie, (defensive line) coach (Brady) Hoke, (wide receivers) coach (Kevin) Beard, all hit me up like every week.
“For me, there’s a lot of opportunities. Coach Hoke, me and him and coach Ollie have a great relationship. So I know if I come here, there’s going to be a great opportunity for me to play as a true freshman. I’m trying to do that too, play as a true freshman. They don’t got no primary defensive ends, so the opportunity is there.”
Tennessee redshirt junior end Jonathan Kongbo spent some time around Ojulari on Saturday.
“I talked to (Kongbo) a little bit when we was at golf,” said Ojulari, who’s not been to Africa but has Nigerian parents. “He told me it was a great experience. He’s from Africa too. I’m from Nigeria.”
The 6-foot-4, 224-pounder and Scout four-star prospect celebrates his birthday this week. The Tennessee staff had a birthday cake with his name on it ready before he got to campus.
“That was just the best, the most. Nobody else ever did nothing that big for me for my birthday. So that was really the biggest surprise,” Ojulari said with a vibrant laugh.
Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and South Carolina join Tennessee as some of the top schools pursuing the nation’s No. 31-ranked defensive end. He added that coach Kirby Smart’s staff is on him “really hard.”
A declaration figures to come “probably midway through my senior season or probably end of July before the season.”
The next trip will be to Gainesville next weekend with plans to venture up to South Bend in July.
Ojulari, who just recently got his fourth star, recorded 103 tackles and seven sacks in 2016.