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Tennessee ‘feels like home’ for 2024 LS JR Buckner

You only ever know the long snapper’s name when he messes up, or at least that’s the way JR Buckner looks at it. 

Buckner, a class of 2024 prospect, was on Tennessee’s campus over the weekend. The long snapper was impressed with Knoxville and the Vols’ facilities. 

Special teams graduate assistant Evan Crabtree spent most of the day with Buckner. 

“I like him, I’ve known him for a couple years now,” Buckner told Off The Hook Sports. “I’ve built a pretty good relationship with Crabtree, (analyst) Blocker and Coach (Ekeler).”

Kohl’s Kicking camps rates Buckner as a 4.5 star long snapper, and the No. 16 long snapper in the 2024 class. 

Special teams coach Mike Ekeler is usually on the sidelines bringing the energy. The 6-foot, 245-pound long snapper is fond of Ekeler and his fiery personality. 

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“I love him,” Buckner said. “He’s crazy, but I love him. He always makes me feel welcome and he’s a good dude.”

Ekeler told Buckner he would be a fulltime long snapper at Tennessee. A position that is overlooked, but is arguably the most important piece of the special teams unit. 

“It’s always in the back of my head if I mess up, everyone messes up,” Buckner said. “My name never gets called unless I mess up, so I never want my name to be called.”

Buckner spent Thursday in Lexington visiting Kentucky, Friday in Knoxville visiting Tennessee and Saturday in Chapel Hill looking at North Carolina. Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas are also in contact with Buckner. 

The main thing for him is to stay close to home in the SEC. Home for Buckner is Auburn (Ala.) High School.

“Just the relationships I’ve built with the coaches, the facilities are great and it kind of feels like home up there,” Buckner said of Tennessee. “(Tennessee) is pretty high in my recruitment.”

Buckner called his favorite part meeting with the coaches and continuing to build a bond. 

“Coach Heupel being able to turn the whole thing around in a short period of time tells me how great of a coach he is. A bright future for them.”

Buckner expects to commit by the end of June so he can focus on his senior year of high school. Tennessee left a lasting impression on the specialist, and he hopes to return to watch a spring practice soon. 

“I like it up there a lot,” he added.

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