The parallels to Russell are significant because that's the quarterback Jefferson is compared to most often. Certainly, Big Orange fans recall how Russell dismantled Tennessee's D last season with his arm and legs, stature and strength, poise and presence. They are also aware that Russell is the projected first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
However many may have forgotten that the strapping signal caller, who is a native of Mobile, Ala., visited The Hill a couple of times as a senior and at one point Tennessee was even considered to be his leader. Unfortunately, fallout from the allegations against former Vol, and Mobile Williamson High School alum, Tee Martin poisoned the recruiting waters for the Vols in Alabama.
QBs with Russell's size and skill set are as rare as blue moons on the Bayou. But it appears D.C. Jefferson is more than a heavenly body. He has true star potential and he might just explode on the collegiate scene like a super nova.
Undoubtedly, he wowed scouts, media and prospects alike at the National Junior Combine in San Antonio last month while participating in passing drills. And when there was a break in the action he was swarmed by microphones, cameras and assorted questions, all of which he fielded with unwavering charm. In a gathering of 400 of the top junior prospects in the nation, D.C. Jefferson, figuratively and literally, stood above the crowd. He had star power and WOW factor.
On a day when he tossed laser-guided bombs with a flick of his spring-loaded right wrist, the QB known as D.C. saved his biggest bombshell for the impromptu Q&A that erupted at midfield of the cavernous Alamo Dome. That's when he proclaimed Tennessee as his early favorite without mentioning any other school. That was a shocker to hear from a prospect who hails from Florida, which produced the 2006 national champion, while standing in Texas, home of the 2005 national champion.
"I'm looking at Tennessee real hard right now," Jefferson told Stephen Atkins of Inside the Auburn Tigers, "but you never know what could happen. The reason why I like them so much is because they've been around talking to me and showing favoritism toward me. I like Florida when I was young, but it's different. You've got to go to the school that fits you better and with what quarterbacks are leaving, so it's different now."
Given the volatility of an ever changing recruiting landscape it's unwise to count on Jefferson signing with the Vols, but it's good to know they have his attention because he certainly has the attention of scouts. Last spring when he was still a sophomore, he showcased his cannon of an arm at the Nike Combine in Miami, throwing one pass with so much zip that the diaphragm of the ball burst in the hands of a receiver upon impact. His legend grew at the national combine as one pass skipped off a receiver's hands on a slant route and sailed 30 yards down field. He also threw an out route that went over the receivers outstretched hands, hit the front rail of the stands and bounce 20 rows deep where it finally came to a stop after rattling between seats like a snare drum.
Like most young guns Jefferson likes to show off his arm strength, sometimes to his detriment. Learning to throttle back and develop touch is vital to succeeding at the next level. He also has a slight whipping action in his throwing motion that adds velocity at the expense of accuracy — a mechanical flaw that can be corrected with tutelage from a qualified technician like David Cutcliffe. Even Russell and Vince Young needed a redshirt year to overcome similar problems. Otherwise, Jefferson moves well in the pocket and is a threat to dash down field or power the ball behind the center in short yardage situations.
"I'm a drop-back passer," Jefferson describes himself, "but at the same time I'm going to make plays where I can make plays. I want to go where I can throw the ball, basically. In a spread offense I could play, but it's just whatever is best at the time."
Jefferson is an outstanding athlete who owns a 32-inch vertical and an average in basketball of 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. His passing stats for the Blue Devils belie his skills, but his leadership was underscored by their deep advance in the state playoffs in 2005 and 2006.
"This year was pretty good (in football), but it wasn't as good as my 10th grade year," Jefferson explained. "I had 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. The year before was 1,000-something, too, but I had more touchdowns and we went farther into the season."
Among the other schools Jefferson is looking at are Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Mississippi, Ohio State and Rutgers. However, at least for the time being, Tennessee has a leg up in this arm's race.