Tennessee picked up his second commit of the day – another defensive prospect – in linebacker Jalen Smith of Grayson, Ga. Joining fellow four-star Chandavian Bradleywho announced his Big Orange intentions just hours before, Tennessee now has 18 pledges for the 2023 class and 11 on the defensive side.
It’s the fifth commit for the Volunteers in the span of a week, sixth total commit during the span and the seventh Volunteer pledge during the month of July. Smith has been all Vols for weeks now, dating back to his official visit weekend on June 10. He also officially visited Pittsburgh, Texas and Virginia during the month.
Tennessee now has two inside linebacker commits as Smith joins Jeremiah Telander in the grouping. The Grayson High School standout is a four-star rated prospect by Rivals and stands in at 6-foot-0, 215 pounds.
Here’s a detailed commitment look at what Smith’s means for Tennessee.
“Jalen Smith is a very talented inside linebacker. He’s not a heavy guy that’s just going to come and thump people, but what he does really well is diagnosing what is going on with the offensive play and then attacks the ballcarrier to get them on the ground. Whether it’s a run play to the outside where they are trying to stretch it out – he can run those down – anything up the middle, he’s going to stop. He does a nice job picking through the crowd to get to the running back and get them on the ground.
He can also blitz. He times them up very well and picks his spot to get after the quarterback. He is not going to be the biggest linebacker you’ve ever seen, but in terms of a guy who runs around the field and gets people on the ground – I think that’s what is most important in the SEC, especially as teams try to spread the field a little bit. He’s going to be able to get all over the place and cover a lot of grass.”
— Adam Gorney, Rivals Recruiting Director
HOW SMITH FITS IN WITH THE FLIGHTS?
Smith is not a big guy, but not all linebackers are tall, weighing 245 pounds. The Grayson High Standout is smart and quick. He studies film and knows what’s about to come his way. Nearly 6-foot-1, 215 pounds – Smith reads through the blocks on the line of scrimmage and attacks the ballcarrier to make stops.
The best part about the new Tennessee commit is his acceleration. Once he’s diagnosed what is going on, the linebacker plants his foot and gets up field, lots of times resulting in tackles for loss. Grayson plays a cover three or four look in the backend often and Smith is charged with containing the quarterback on rollouts or delayed draws. He is very, very skilled in this regard – putting his speed to use.
At the second layer of the defense in the middle, Smith displays a sharp first step and is working downhill with the motion of the play. He runs the ally well, closing space between he and the ballcarrier to make the play at or behind the line of scrimmage. Smith has good clothes, playing over blocks and not running himself underneath, out of the play.
Finally, Smith does blitz fairly well from the second level. Timing is everything in blitzing and Smith knows when to go. With a good blend of smarts and speed, Smith is a dangerous combination and a really good prep player in the state of Georgia.
A collegiate strength and conditioning program will work wonders for the undersized linebacker, one who impressed the home state Georgia Bulldogs last month in camp. He’ll be an instant contributor to the special teams unit for the Volunteers in the fall of 2023 and we’ll see how he progresses into working towards the two-deep.
WHAT DOES SMITH’S COMMITMENT MEAN FOR TENNESSEE?
It further rounds out what is looking to be a solid committed class on the defensive side of the football for the Volunteers. With the addition to Smith, Tennessee now has two inside linebackers, two LEOs, three defensive linemen, three safeties and a cornerback in the class. From here, Tennessee needs to continue to add cornerbacks and interior defensive linemen up front.
Smith’s commitment to the Volunteers is another guy who can run and cover a lot of space. Both he and Jeremiah Telander will be charged with covering a lot of ground in SEC play, as teams spread out and quarterbacks aren’t afraid to run. That’s a major part of Smith’s game as both can also stop the run up the middle.
Tennessee’s new pledge is also the sixth from the state of Georgia as the Vols continue to have good success in the Peach State.
The Vols could experience a lot of turnover in the linebacker room following the 2022 campaign with Jeremy Banks, Juwan Mitchell and Solon Page entering their redshirt senior seasons. Aaron Beasley will be a true senior in 2022. Thus, there will be snaps to be had in 2023 and beyond. Look for Smith to try and find a reserve role on this defense in 2023 with higher aspirations in the seasons that follow.
With two commits pledging their intentions to Rocky Top on Sunday, Tennessee continues to be on commit watch with four-star offensive tackle Lucas Simmons announcing tomorrow at 1 pm ET. Fellow offensive tackle target Stanton Ramil and wide receiver Nathan Leacock shouldn’t be far behind with announcing theirs either.