While Ja’Quain Blakely held over 20 offers, including five from SEC programs, his decision ultimately came down to two schools: Florida and Tennessee.
The 3-star linebacker from Colquitt County High School chose the latter on Saturday night.
“When I went to Tennessee the first time, I fell in love at first sight,” Blakely told the AJC. “When I went back a second time, the coaches acted the same as they did the first time, which showed me a lot.”
Blakely was first offered by Tennessee back in March. Since then, Blakely says he’s been in constant contact with the coaching staff, most notably defensive coordinator John Jancek and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.
“They were communicating with me on a daily basis, hitting me up on Twitter,” Blakely said. “I would call them and we’d have regular conversations.”
“They were recruiting me pretty hard.”
Blakely says he enjoyed the atmosphere at Tennessee more than any other school, and says the surrounding community “felt like home”.
His coach at Colquitt County, Rush Propst, echoed those same sentiments, but says the decision ultimately came down to Tennessee’s unmatched recruiting efforts.
“Obviously, they went after him very, very hard along with Florida, Missouri and Arkansas,” Propst told the AJC. “But they were relentless.”
While the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder is ranked as the country’s No. 48 outside linebacker, it has yet to be determined whether he’ll play inside or outside linebacker at the next level. Blakely says Tennessee’s coaches have expressed to him that he could play either or because of his unique skill set.
Much of that could depend on how much weight he gains at the next level, too.
“(They) told me that with my movement and my hips, I can play outside,” Blakely said, “and with my weight I can play inside.”
Regardless, his high school coach believes he’ll be a fit at any position.
“He’s 6-foot-3, and about 215 pounds,” Propst said. “He’s got some things about him. He’s very physical, he’s explosive, and he’s looked even better this summer.”
Blakely hands Tennessee its 14th commitment in 2016. He’s the second player from the state of Georgia to commit this year to the Volunteers, a trend that was well-documented last season. Of the program’s 27 signees in 2015, seven came from Georgia.