Two weeks ago, Otis Jacobs wasn't a name many Tennessee fans had ever heard of. Tonight, that name is on UT's commitment list.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound JUCO cornerback from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi visited the Vols on Wednesday after much persuasion by Vols target and teammate Darrington Sentimore. After going back to his Louisiana home and talking it over with his mother, Jacobs switched his commitment from Texas A&M to Tennessee. Derek Dooley and Justin Wilcox were in Jacobs' Covington, La., home Friday night to accept the commitment. He will sign with UT on Wednesday, barring any last-minute craziness.
Jacobs' commitment is directly related to his looking around after the Aggies got rid of Mike Sherman as the head coach. Though new A&M coach Kevin Sumlin tried to sway him to stay with an in-home visit, Jacobs changed his mind and will play the next two or three years in Knoxville. He has three years to play two.
Though UT has received a commitment from a Jacobs that was relatively unknown by most of us just a couple of weeks ago, the Vols are frantically trying to hang onto another JUCO Jacobs that has been committed for months.
Right here before junior college players can sign, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs -- a four-star prospect at a major position of need -- could be swayed to flip to Texas A&M, Mississippi State or Florida. Right now, the Bulldogs appear to be the most worrisome of the trio since Jacobs' teammate Denico Autry stunned family and UT coaches by committing to MSU over UT this past week. Though the two aren't necessarily a package deal, they are friends, and just by reading a lot of the recruiting stories, Damien Jacobs has been very reluctant to be considered completely "committed" to the Vols for a while now.
Securing Damien Jacobs will go a long way toward rounding out this class. As for "package deals," though Otis Jacobs and teammate Sentimore aren't one, either, it does seem encouraging that Sentimore -- the former Alabama defensive end -- was actively trying to recruit Jacobs to UT. Now that the defensive back has pulled the trigger, hopefully Sentimore will follow suit soon.
Anyway, back to tonight's commitment and what it means for the Vols. Jacobs, according to Scout.com, doesn't have top-end speed, but he has been clocked in the 4.4's so I don't get that evaluation. He has been a dynamic returner this year as well as a standout corner. Getting a speedy player like him to commit continues to address the need for speed the Vols have been targeting -- and getting -- recently. Starting with a pledge from fellow CB Daniel Gray, the Vols have added RB Quenshaun Watson and WR Alton "Pig" Howard to get much faster, and Jacobs falls into that category as well.
Now, how will the Vols make the numbers work? Simply put, there isn't a politically correct answer right now. According to NCAA rules, UT can only bring in 25 players. Though Jacobs is the Vols' 22nd verbal commitment, UT also must count Tino Thomas when he comes back, and you'd think Dooley will give a scholarship to walk-on starter Alex Bullard, who would have to count toward this year's numbers. That means the Vols could only take one more commitment.
I assure you that UT will accept more than that -- possibly four or five more than that. UT still really wants Sentimore, another JUCO defensive lineman [preferably Denico Autry or Daniel McCullers], Cordarrelle Patterson and a running back at least. If the Vols are lucky and two of the dynamic running back targets wanted to commit, they'd probably take them given the situation there. Then there's center Matt Cochran and others I'm forgetting.
There isn't an "if this happens ..." scenario here. The bottom line is WHEN the Vols get more commitments, they're going to have to make some difficult -- and unpopular -- decisions with some of the players already committed. Will they ask some to grayshirt? Probably. Will some simply be asked/told to look around like Imani Cross? Yeah, that too. It's not a fun situation to be in as a head coach and as a program, but it's enviable as a fan because you know that, given UT's current situation, the Vols have to sign the 25 best players they can. Dooley knows that, too. Remember this cuts both ways, too. Some kids UT has committed now and desperately wants like LaDarrell McNeil and Damien Jacobs may wind up other places.
So, while UT's class assuredly will look different on National Signing Day, it will likely be better than it is now, after a few uncomfortable moves. Also keep in mind Jacobs is the sixth DB commitment the Vols have taken this year, which means kids like McNeil who is looking around and Kenneth Crawley who still has never been to UT on a visit can't be considered solid. Coaches expect some to jump ship, obviously.
Finally, tying up some loose ends on Jacobs, he is as I said a Covington boy and he was high school teammates with UT linebacker commitment Otha Peters a couple years ago. He is a three-star player on Rivals and Scout, but 247 Sports has him as a four-star and the 17th ranked JUCO player in the country. For those who care about these things, Jacobs' commitment puts the Vols at 10th in the newest Rivals rankings.
Welcome aboard, Otis!