Signee profile: Arthur Jeffery

For a high school senior coming off ACL surgery to play as a college freshman would be somewhat miraculous. But one Tennessee football signee believes in miracles.

That would be Arthur Jeffery. The 6-4, 285-pound defensive tackle from Sarasota, Fla., reports amazing progress in rehabbing the knee injury that caused him to miss his entire senior season at Booker High School last fall.

"Oh, man, it's coming along great," he said by phone from his hometown. "I'm about 80 percent of the way."

Although many observers figure Jeffery will redshirt in 2009 while stabilizing and strengthening the surgically repaired knee, he's taking a more optimistic approach.

"I'm trying to get in and get some playing time," he said. "That'll be great."

Still, he concedes that the odds may be against him recovering from such a major surgery in time to contribute as a Vol freshman.

"It would be great to be able to go out and play this season," he said. "That would be a tremendous recovery from my injury."

Because he was largely inactive following the surgery, Jeffery says his weight fluctuated wildly for a while.

"I was kind of light," he said. "I gained some weight after the injury occurred, then I had to work my way back down. It was a big cycle – gain weight, then lose weight."

Currently packing 280 pounds on his frame, Jeffery believes he's a lot more college-ready than he was a year ago.

"I've gained about 20 or 30 pounds of strength," he said. "I'm looking forward to being stronger and doing everything better. I'm preparing myself for anything."

Based on a superb junior season – 74 stops, 28 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 5 blocked kicks – Jeffery was rated the No. 20 defensive tackle prospect in America by

"The Tennessee coaches project me to play tackle," he said, "but I feel I can play anywhere on the defensive line, really."

Being a native of Florida, Jeffery's decision to sign with Tennessee naturally raised some eyebrows in the Sunshine State.

"I got a lot of questions from people wondering why I picked Tennessee," he said.

So, why did he?

"God made me do it," he said. "It just clicked. It was like a small message, saying, 'Give it a try.'"

Jeffery, who says he is fully eligible, plans to attend UT's first session of summer school. He believes his intelligence is a key asset, on the field and off.

"I have anticipation," he said. "The way I see it is, I'm looking to out-think my opponent. It's almost like a game of chess."

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