Tennessee Recruiting: Jalil Clemons Camps, Commits

Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt has fared well recently in picking up several coveted recruiting prospects for the Vols, but he has said time and time again that he trusts his recruiting evaluations over those of analysts.

That manifested itself Sunday with an out-of-the-blue pledge from Starkville, Mississippi, defensive end/outside linebacker Jalil Clemons, who camped in Knoxville this past weekend and committed. He had an offer before heading up to the camp, but the coaching staff saw him in person, and when the two parties liked what they saw — Clemons of campus and the Vols of the prospect — he chose the Vols.

The 6’3″, 240-pound prospect did not have a Power 5 offer besides the Vols. He did have offers from Memphis, UT-San Antonio, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and others. Despite the lack of big-time offers, Clemons is a guy the Vols zeroed in on for a while. They love his speed, and he has the body type to add 40 pounds and play at 270-280. That’s intriguing for a staff that wants to make the Vols a much bigger team, as evidenced by recent recruiting exploits.

Clemons told GoVols247’s Ryan Callahan that UT coaches compared him to former Alabama outside linebacker/pass rusher Ryan Anderson, who is now in the NFL. His high school coach, Chris Jones, compared Clemons to MSU defensive end Jeffrey Simmons.

Last year, Clemons had 72 tackles, including 22 for a loss and 11 sacks for the Starkville High Yellow Jackets.

He told 247Sports’ Yancy Porter that the hometown Bulldogs told the school they weren’t going to recruit him because he was too small. That’s a mistake, according to his high school coach.

“Wait until he gets at some of these camps and combines this summer,” Jones told Porter a month ago, according to Callahan’s story. “He’ll blow up. Hands down, he’s better than (LSU commitment and teammate) Zach Edwards. That’s no knock on Zach. Jalil is just in another league.”

As we’ve mentioned before on this site, Pruitt’s evaluations are paramount to Tennessee achieving early success. The Vols may not immediately recruit with the likes of Alabama and Georgia, but they also can’t afford to miss on guys who may not be as highly rated as teams like the Crimson Tide’s and Bulldogs’ prospects. After all, they compete with those teams every year.

So, players like Clemons need to be the kind of player coaches project them to be.

Given the way Pruitt coached and developed in his time as defensive coordinator with the Tide, Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles, it’s hard to doubt him. Even if you think this may be an early reach, there’s no way this staff quits recruiting outside linebackers. And if Clemons continues to develop, this will wind up a steal.

If he doesn’t, the two can part ways. Happens all the time.

But what more can you ask for? This staff laid eyes on Clemons, liked what they saw, thought he fit the scheme and took a commitment. That may not be what the star-gazers like, but Pruitt gets paid the big bucks to make these decisions.

The Vols are currently ranked 19th in the nation in recruiting and just eighth in the SEC. Expecting a smallish class, it’s going to be interesting to see just how high this class can rise. With limited spots, you know the staff must really like Clemons to take him now. There’s no reason to think this is a stretch taking a commit like this.

I personally like it. I want Clemons to add the weight and come in with a chip on his shoulder. If he’s an SEC prospect, it’ll bear itself out between now and national signing day. Welcome aboard!

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