The defense for Tennessee football had its fair share of struggles in 2022, but help is on the way. Georgia linebacker Jalen Smith committed to the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class in the summer.
Where Smith ranks
The linebacker measures out at 6-foot and 213-pounds.
247Sports ranks Smith as a three-star prospect, the No. 56 linebacker in his class, and the No. 54 prospect from Georgia.
ON3 has Smith as a three-star prospect, the No. 40 linebacker, and the No. 50 prospect from Georgia.
Rivals ranks Smith as a four-star prospect, the No. 23 prospect from Georgia, and the No. 15 linebacker in his class.
Smith’s decision to commit to Tennessee football
Smith verbally committed to Tennessee football in July. He received a scholarship offer from the Vols in January.
A month before choosing the Vols, Smith visited them. That was one of a handful of times he made the trip to Rocky Top.
The Vols beat out Texas, Pitt and LSU, among others, to land Smith.
At Grasyon High School in Loganville, Ga., Smith is also a track star. He found success there like he did on the football field.
Smith’s personal best in the 100-meter dash is 12.17 seconds, 25 seconds in the 200-meter and 23.62 in the 110-meter hurdles.
Tennessee football will utilize his speed on the defensive side.
Amassing all-region and all-state recognition a season ago, Smith was a pivotal part in Grayson’s playoff run.
The linebacker finished the season with a school-record 173 tackles. He also had 14.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and a forced fumble.
He continued his dominance into his senior year, picking up all-region and all-state honors again. Smith received high praise from his coach on Twitter following the award reception.
Why Tennessee football?
Tennessee football had some stout competition in trying to pick up Smith. He took official visits to Texas and Pitt before deciding his future home was Knoxville.
Josh Heupel was one of the deciding factors for Smith. The head coach has become very good at building relationships, and it may have won him this prospect.
“Coach Heupel has talked to me since before my official visit,” Smith told SI after his commitment. “He is being consistent with that and making sure how important I am to him and the program. He just told me that we need more guys in the program like me, somebody of high character but a great athlete on the field as well. That’s very important to me. He’s been able to take the time out to get to know me and my family, so that’s very important.”