There is new competition for the handful of SEC schools recruiting JaCoby Stevens.
Oregon is the latest school to offer the five-star athlete a scholarship. The Ducks extended an invite on Sunday evening. The Ducks have a strong appeal thanks to its recent history of landing Tennessee prospects. Receiver Dillon Mitchell from White Station High School (Memphis, Tenn.) signed with the Ducks as part of their 2016 class and cornerback Ugo Amadi from Overton High School (Nashville, Tenn.) is a sophomore defensive back at Oregon. Stevens said he plans to visit Eugene, Ore., this summer.
“The one thing I like about them is they do well with Tennessee guys…They give them a chance out there,” said Stevens, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound prospect from Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) said. “It’s kind of like a home away from home with those guys.”
After visiting Tennessee on Saturday, Auburn will get the next opportunity to impress Stevens. He is set to visit with the Tigers on March 5.
“They’re building up and Auburn has something to prove so they’re going to be aggressive in everything they do,” said Stevens, who is rated the No. 1 athlete prospect in the country and the No. 1 overall prospect in Tennessee.
The Vols have made Stevens a high priority. He was the highest rated prospect to visit Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend. He paid close attention to first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
“I just enjoyed how the coaches are with the players,” said Stevens, who is the No. 15 overall prospect in the country. “I sat back and watched how coach Shoop talked to his defensive backs, how he talked to (cornerback) Cam Sutton….Coach Jones, he had his hand in everything – offense and defense – so it was nice.”
Sutton’s presence alone is reason for Stevens to be impressed with the Vols. Sutton, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and running back Alvin Kamara all decided to return to Tennessee instead of forgoing their remaining eligibility and entering the NFL Draft.
“That just shows how the players believe in the system,” Stevens said. “Of course, Cam Sutton could have went to the league and gotten paid a lot of money. So could Jalen Reeves-Maybin, but they believe in coach Jones’ vision. Brick by brick, building Tennessee up from the bottom and going back to Tennessee glory days. The coaching stability at UTK is very nice.”
The lack of coaching stability is what has Stevens on the open market. He was committed to LSU for about a month before decommitting in late November because of head coach Les Miles’ shaky job status. Miles was eventually retained after widespread speculation that he would be fired. Stevens rooted for LSU growing up, but the turmoil has changed his perception of the Tigers.
“Right now, I’m just wide open with everything,” Stevens said. “LSU is just like every other school…Not knowing if (Miles) was going to come back was a really big deal.”
Proximity from home won’t be a significant factor for Stevens. He has family spread across the nation so there will be a support system among the schools he is considering. He has a grandmother in Washington close to Oregon and most of his family resides in Louisiana. Stevens said he spent as much or more time in Louisiana as he did Tennessee during his childhood. That has LSU’s coaches optimistic despite his decommitment.
“That they’re not going to stop recruiting me,” Stevens said when asked how LSU’s coaches responded when he told them he was no longer committed. “That they’re going to recruit me even harder to get me back on board. They really want me to get back on board and become an LSU Tiger. They’re still recruiting me as hard as they can.”
Georgia has also made a strong push. Stevens took a recent visit to Athens, Ga., and left impressed.
So why would Stevens chose the Vols over a strong list of suitors? Tennessee’s potential for success is a huge factor. Stevens mentioned Tennessee quarterback signee Jarrett Guarantano, sophomore offensive lineman Jack Jones and sophomore defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie as recent prospects that have caught his eye.
“When you have guys like that coming into your program,” Stevens said, “you have no choice but to be good.”
Given his stature among 2017 prospects, Stevens would fit right in with that group.
All player ranking and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.