JaCoby Stevens knows Tennessee was once an elite program. He wants to know they will be that again.
“They’re building brick-by-brick and doing a great job with that,” the five-star athlete said, using Tennessee coach Butch Jones’ favorite saying. “I just want to go back and see what they’re doing and the things they’re doing to build their program back up to what it used to be with Phillip Fulmer there. They’re trying to get back to the glory days.”
Stevens, who is from Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), will visit Tennessee on Saturday for the Vols’ first junior day of 2016. A top priority for the Vols, Stevens is the No. 1 prospect in the state, the No. 1 athlete prospect in the nation and the No. 15 overall prospect in the country.
The Bulldogs made a strong impression on Stevens during his recent visit to Athens, Ga., but Stevens isn’t ready to call any team his leader.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t say that right now,” the 6-foot-2, 200-pound prospect said. “It’s too early. Now, I’m still wide open. Even though Georgia made an impression on me, I have to make sure I cross my T’s and dot my I’s.”
The Vols have an obvious advantage being the home state team. However, Stevens is trying to take that out of the equation.
“It’s the home team and stuff like that but I can’t let that bind me,” Stevens said. “I have to approach it just like I do every other school because I need to see if it offers me and my family the best.”
While Tennessee’s actual recruiters tasked with courting Stevens reside on campus, there are plenty of nearby recruiters in Stevens’ hometown.
“All the time,” Stevens said when asked if friends and family sell the Vols. “My dad’s coworkers, they stay on me about it. The teammates and people in my school, they stay on me about it. Of course, Tennessee being the in-state school, it just comes with it, especially after you get the in-state offer, but it still comes down to business.
“I have to make the decision for me and not let the outside influences affect the biggest decision of my life.”
With 25 scholarship offers, Stevens has plenty of options. He was committed to LSU for about a month before decommitting in late November. Now, it’s Tennessee’s chance to impress. The Vols will have to prove they can be an elite program while showcasing the entirety of what they can offer.
“Academics always come first before athletics, so I want to see what they have to offer in the business field because that’s what I’m going to study,” Stevens said. “I want to see what the campus life is like, how the football players interact with everyday students. I also want to see things away from athletics.”
All player ranking and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.