Jaelen Gill is from the heart of Big Ten country, yet he has a fondness for the SEC — especially Tennessee.
“Oh my goodness, I loved it,” the sophomore running back said when asked about his recent visit to Knoxville.”It’s completely different from the Big Ten atmosphere. It’s kind of hard to explain. Everything is different. I had a blast. The coaches were nice. The fans there treat you like a celebrity. It was just really cool.”
The South High School (Westerville, Ohio) product, who visited Knoxville for the South Carolina game on Nov. 7, has developed a strong relationship with running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who is Gill’s primary recruiter at UT.
“He’s real cool,” the 6-foot, 165-pound Gill said of the Tennessee coach. “He has a lot – a lot – of energy. He’s real funny. He’s a great coach. They got (running back) Jalen Hurd there and you see how he’s doing…I think the world of coach Gillespie. I think he’s a great coach – great guy too.”
The Vols seem to have an early edge against their SEC competition for Gill.
“I have an offer from Kentucky and I’ve talked to Alabama and LSU a little bit,” Gill said. “Tennessee is recruiting me the most out of the SEC.”
Gill couldn’t recall his exact statistics this past season, but said he had approximately 1,820 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns. He said he’s “completely undecided” about his recruitment but would like to make a decision shortly after his junior season or early on as a senior.
The 2018 prospect recently picked up scholarship offers from UCLA and Arizona State, which brings his total number of reported offers to a dozen. He also has offers from Tennessee, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Penn State, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois.
“It’s definitely going a little faster than it was recently,” Gill said of his recruitment. “More West Coast teams have been contacting me and I’ve been going on more visits…I’m on the phone with coaches basically every day so it’s definitely picking up.”
When asked if distance from home would be a factor in his recruitment, Gill indicated that it won’t be a huge factor.
“I’m open to playing anywhere in the country,” he said. “I just want to play football and get my education. Whatever school I feel will fit me best is where I will be at….I’d like for my family to see my games but for myself, I can see myself anywhere. Being close, being far out West, down South, wherever, it’s not really too much of a problem with me. I’m open to anywhere.”
Gill’s visit to Tennessee has shown the SEC’s appeal. However, Gill also has respect for the Power Five conference in his backyard.
“In my eyes, I think the Big Ten and the SEC are the two best conferences all around,” he said. “Both conferences have great offenses and defenses.”
Gill said he will visit Ohio State this weekend for the Michigan State game. He’s taking the trip as more of a football fan than a prospect.
“I’m really going just because of the game,” he said. “It’s Ohio State-Michigan State so who wouldn’t want to see it? I’ve been to Ohio State multiple times so I already know what I need to know about Ohio State.”