July 15, 2011

Vols jump into mix for JuCo DT

It's been a while since East Mississippi Junior College defensive tackle Damien Jacobs has had to think about recruiting. He signed with Florida State in 2010 and was all set to enroll but then was flagged by the NCAA Clearinghouse and was never able to start his career with the Seminoles.

Now after opening up his recruitment, it looks like Tennessee is the first team to jump in the new race for Jacobs. That's not surprising since most of the Tennessee staff tried to recruit the 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman out of high school.

"My head coach had told me that they were interested in me, and I figured they would have been because all the coaches on the staff recruited me in high school when they were at their different schools. He told me they were interested in me when I opened my recruitment up; he told me that I had an offer from Tennessee already," Jacobs said. "My high school head coach called me and told me Tennessee was trying to get in touch with me and I called them and they told me they wanted to offer me and they want to set me up for a visit next weekend."

So when Jacobs visits next weekend with teammate Denico Autry, he won't be seeing new faces. In fact, he'll be seeing plenty of familiar ones.

"I talked to coach (Derek) Dooley plenty of times when he was at Louisiana Tech. Coach (Terry) Joseph came by to see me plenty of times. Coach Schirra (Fields, defensive graduate assistant) came down here plenty of times. Coach (Eric) Russell, when he was at Texas Tech, me and him had a good relationship going. I almost signed with him at Texas Tech," Jacobs said.

For Jacobs, that's a bonus now that he's starting the process over again because he knows he can get the 'getting to know you' stage out of the way because he's already extremely comfortable with the coaches that are in Knoxville.

"It helps me a lot because I know all of them. I know how they are and even not talking to them in a long time but I know all of them real well. I talked to coach Russell about every night. I know him real well. That's my man right there," Jacobs said.

While Tennessee has certainly jumped in quickly with Jacob's recruitment, it hasn't taken off like a rocket yet. The word's still slowly leaking out about Jacobs and some schools are slow to offer right now because they didn't evaluate him last year and spring because they thought he was going to end up a Seminole. But, he expects that to change soon when more schools see his film.

"It's slow right now because it's the summer, but it's picking up pretty fast. I've got a couple of schools waiting for some film. Some are just waiting to see me play a little bit more because I didn't start, but I played a whole lot," he said. "But, I had a really good spring and that opened a lot of eyes. Matter of fact, I saw Tennessee down there a few times. But, I was committed to Florida State back then so I wasn't too worried about anything else."

Some other schools that are also interested are Texas A&M and Miami along with a few other SEC schools.

This won't be the first time Jacobs has visited Tennessee. He came to Knoxville in the summer of 2009 to camp when head coach Lane Kiffin was leading the Vols, but he's happy there's a new staff in town when he visits this next time.

"I've been to Tennessee before. Going into my senior year, I went to camp up there with coach Kiffin. I liked it. I remember everything from the visit. I liked the facilities. If anything swayed me away from there it was the coaching staff, but I like the coaching staff that's there now. I'm happy about that," Jacobs said.

When it comes to what he's looking for while visiting Tennessee or any school for that matter is playing time and a good fit.

"I'm looking to see good coaching staffs and I want to make sure it's a good place for me to play because I've been in junior college and I don't have time to waste. So, just a good coaching staff and good football and the way they treat their players. All of those are factors," he said.

Going into his sophomore season in Scooba, Miss., Jacobs is hoping to improve on his 48 tackles and two sacks he recorded his first year and he said he has confidence he'll have an even better season because of the competition he's faced.

"It's a lot more sped up. I don't think some people realize the actual speed and strength of players in junior college and that gives me confidence and I have a lot of great teammates that can play and some good o-lineman and I did great against them in the spring so that gives me confidence as well," Jacobs added.

Jacobs said he was fairly positive he would be able to graduate in December.

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