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Tennessee Football: The Vols have a pro in the defensive backfield

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Rebuilding a roster takes time. Well, it used to.

When Tennessee’s coaches looked back on the 2022 season, they surely saw the same thing that everyone else did: the Vols needed major help in defense, particularly in the secondary. Enter Gabe Jeudy-Lally.

“Gabe is a professional,” UT defensive backs coach Willie Martinez said after Tennessee’s practice on Wednesday. “He’s been at two places where he has played a lot of football. We wanted that experience. We wanted somebody to come in here with that skill set…can challenge for the starting spot and push these guys…We wanted to bring in somebody that had some experience and, again, would fit in right in with our culture. He has been accepted and he’s done a great job of buying into our program.”

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Jeudy-Lally is working on the third acceptance stage of his career. He originally played at Vanderbilt before transferring to BYU last season. Now, he’s back in the SEC and, whether he starts or not, should be a valuable member of the Vols’ secondary during the two years of eligibility he has remaining.

Jeudy-Lally said he chose Tennessee over other schools partly because of defensive coordinator Tim Banks and the Vols’ ability to compete for a championship. However, there was more than that. Playing in the NFL was a significant factor.

“I want to be in a place where you know I can achieve that goal,” Jeudy-Lally said. “…I wanted to go somewhere bigger and understand the responsibilities that it takes to be able to take those steps and I want to be able to get coached in the classroom harder than I have before. So I can take those steps to be able be a better football player at the end of the day and then use that to be able to help the guys out in my room as well.”

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There was a time in which a player that transferred twice during his college career would draw a leery eye, that he might have issues working with others or be an outright malcontent. The exact opposite appears to be the case for Jeudy-Lally.

“I didn’t come here to prove anything,” the Austin, Texas native said. “In my honest opinion, I came here to do my job. At the end of the day, we need help in certain areas and I’m coming to help in those certain areas. If it means teaching guys, means getting on the field, that means making the plays that need to be made. That’s what I came here to do. 

“I think that your game itself proves what you have to do. So I think that that’s where it comes in and what my expectation of myself is to be able to teach the guys, because I don’t have a lot of time left. So teach the guys so Tennessee can be good for years and to be able to come in here and help us achieve that goal. We were a couple of steps away from a national championship last year and, hopefully, we can build a little momentum and go to the national championship this year and it starts with the defense, just playing better at the end of the day and the offense just keeps doing the thing that they’re doing.”

That sounds like a plan. Jeudy-Lally has some unique perspective considering he is at his third school. Per his comments on Wednesday, the Vols are ahead of the Cougars and Commodores.

“Athletic and super smart,” the former Charlotte, N.C. prep standout said when asked what he thinks of his fellow defensive backs. “It’s just really amazing to see when we’re in the position room, even guys that have just got here that are playing high school football in December. They already understand the way that football works.”

Be it the transfer portal or fitting into a new team, Jeudy-Lally seems to understand the way college football works nowadays. At that, he’s a pro.

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