Follow ‘That Dude'

Tennessee caught lightning in a bottle in 1979 when it inked splendid sprinter Willie Gault of Griffin, Ga., to a football scholarship. Now nearly three decades later the Vols return to Griffin seeking another gridiron star. Will lightning strike twice for UT?

The object of Tennessee's sentimental journey to Griffin — where the Vols also landed Ben Talley and Fred White in the 90s — is 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end Toby Jackson, currently ranked by among the top 100 prospects nationally, as well as cream of a talent rich crop in the Peach State.

Known as "That Dude" Jackson had 73 tackles, including 12 for losses with six sacks as a junior. He could contribute early as a strong side DE at the next level or develop into defensive tackle. He runs a 4.91 and has fe

"I think they would like for me to get bigger and maybe move me inside to tackle," he told Dean Legge of, when asked how Georgia envisioned using him. "I think 280 would be a good size for me. I am 240 right now, but hopefully I will play defensive end in college."

An outstanding athlete, Jackson plays basketball for Griffin and has a SPARQ score of 52.8. He is frequently compared to a young Julius Pepper and wants to study automotive engineering.

Tennessee and Georgia were the first two schools to offer Jackson, who also counts ships from Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama and Clemson. Florida State and Florida are also showing a lot of interest. He visited FSU last fall, attended the Tennessee-Georgia game in Athens and the Tennessee-LSU game in Knoxville.

"The atmosphere up there is great," he said of his trek to The Hill. "The fans are really involved with the team. I think they really treat you like family and make you feel welcome. I think Tennessee is a place I know I can go in and play."

In a February interview with Miller Safrit of, Jackson said: "Right now, if I had to make a decision tomorrow, I'd probably say really either Florida State or Tennessee. When I visited them, they were the ones that I felt the most comfortable with. I've still got a lot of visits to take and a lot of time before I have to decide."

Georgia has since joined the Vols and Noles in leader status, and the competition will only intensify over the coming year as Jackson gains more national exposure. He was scheduled to participate in the Kennedy/CES combine in Atlanta last month but an ankle injury from basketball turned him into a spectator.

"I'll show you whatever you want to see," Jackson said prior to the injury. "I think I bring quickness and do a pretty good job getting to the quarterback. I'm more of a speed guy off the edge, but if I need to get in there and hit somebody I can."

A fan of jazz (and we're talking the Utah Jazz), Jackson's younger brother Kentorious Jackson is a very promising DT prospect who had a standout combine in Atlanta. One other point of interest about "That Dude" Big Orange fans would like to know — his sports hero is the late, great Reggie White, who was also Gault's teammate at Tennessee.

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