Marteze Jackson is a Rivals 3-star / Scout 2-star DE/LB prospect who was in Knoxville on his official visit this weekend. During that visit, he told KNS that Tennessee had his commitment. This helps fill in a huge recruiting need in the 2010 class, as UT previously only had one linebacker commit (Ralph Williams from Miami).
This commit is very much a needs-based commit for the Vols. While I don't know much about Jackson as a player, there is already some information about how he will fit in on the Hill. First is that Scout and Rivals seem to be just a little unsure of whether he will be a defensive end or a linebacker. Players like that are 'tweeners', meaning that they show some advantages in each position, but nothing particularly dominant in either. To me, this is a sign of Tennessee's impending transition to a 3-4 defense, once the personnel is sufficiently in place. Under Nick Saban, Derek Dooley saw players like Jackson used extensively in both roles, as the defense could alternate between a 3-4 and 4-3 alignment without having to change personnel on the field. The alignment shifts helped keep the offense off balance and gave a bit of a tactical advantage to the defense.
I would fully expect Jackson to be used in the same manner, and that may be what sold him on Tennessee. Like coaching staffs, not every player on the field can be the star of the show. A few players need to be the glue that holds things together, and a hybrid DE/LB is typically one of those guys on defense.
Two questions remain for Jackson: how long will he take to develop?, and how hard is he willing to work? The answer to the first is likely that he'll redshirt a year, as his rating usually indicates a work-in-progress kind of player. The answer to the second is less known at this point, though Dooley doesn't strike me as the kind of coach who will bring in knowingly lazy players. So I expect him to give everything he's got. He may take a year to hit the field (LB injury apocalypse, year 2 notwithstanding), but his commitment does give us a glimpse of the new direction of our defense.
[Note by Hooper, 01/24/10 2:03 PM EST ] The KNS link above has updated to include more information on his commitment. Jackson committed to the Vols largely because of the engineering school, and he plans on majoring in electrical engineering. I like this, and not just because I'm in engineering myself, but because it speaks well of his though processes. I like an engineer's mind in that LB/DE role - someone who's constantly weighing the different options available and thinking in terms of process improvement while on the field.