Leonard Stephens didn’t make any grand declarations about Georgia Tech’s chances with Jayson Jones, a four-star defensive tackle committed to Alabama. But Stephens, who is the trainer for the 330-pound prospect from Calera, Ala., didn’t write Tech off, either.
Jones fluttered Tech hearts when he named the school as one of his five official visits in a tweet last weekend. It followed an unofficial visit April 12 that clearly impressed him.
“I would say that that visit, they’re somewhere between that one and three range,” Stephens told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I wouldn’t put them at five.”
Besides Tech and Alabama, to whom Jones committed in July, Jones also has official visits planned for Florida, Michigan and Oregon. Jones’ initial connection to Tech was offensive-line coach Brent Key, who recruited Jones to Alabama before taking the job at Tech with coach Geoff Collins in January. Stephens said that Jones made the visit – along with Stephens and three friends – in part out of respect to Key.
Without Key, “I can’t say he wouldn’t have come,” Stephens said. “I can’t say he would have, either, but that definitely played a part in it.”
Once he got to campus, Jones was caught by surprise.
“You could tell they were building something,” Stephens said. “The kids were excited to be a part of something and, like Jayson said, ‘Man, I didn’t expect it.’ I wasn’t expecting it, and they kind of blew him away.”
On the visit, Jones sat in on defensive-line coach Larry Knight’s position-group meeting – “He was the biggest guy in the room,” Stephens said. “A lot of the players were kind of looking at him like, Who is this young guy?” – and met with coaches and toured the football facilities and campus.
Stephens said that Jones connected with Knight.
“Honestly, with Jayson being the kind of kid he is, he doesn’t want anything given to him,” Stephens said. “I don’t think Georgia Tech rose up on the list because of, ‘Oh, I’m going to go here and start.’ Coach Knight told him, ‘Hey, I’m not going to promise you a starting position, but what I’m going to promise you is you have an opportunity to come in and compete to be a starter.’ I think that’s why Jayson will have a little more interest in them, because (Knight) was honest with him and didn’t tell him what (he thought) he wanted to hear.”
Further, Stephens said that coaches weren’t critical of the competition.
“A lot of coaches bash the other schools,” Stephens said. “They didn’t do it. They just talked about them and what they had to offer. It wasn’t much pressure.”
On Wednesday, Jones offered a tweet that would seem an encouragement to Tech’s hopes.
Tech coaches also have interest in a teammate of Jones’ who made the trip – defensive back Trenton Yowe. Stephens said that coaches are considering a scholarship offer. Yowe was committed to Mississippi State, but withdrew his commitment in December.
Tech could undoubtedly use help at defensive tackle, a position that has been hard to fill with difference-making players. The Jackets had two All-ACC defensive tackles in former coach Paul Johnson’s tenure – Vance Walker in 2008 and Adam Gotsis in 2015.
Jones is rated the No. 80 prospect nationally, the No. 6 prospect at defensive tackle and the top prospect in the state of Alabama (247Sports Composite). For Tech fans, the thought of plucking the top player in Alabama out from under Nick Saban’s nose might be too delicious for words and all the confirmation they would need of Collins’ (and Key’s) recruiting prowess.
Stephens describes Jones as highly intelligent and quiet, but more animated with friends. Stephens said that when the possibility of him playing offensive tackle and defensive tackle for his high school was raised, Jones didn’t flinch.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Coach, I want to do whatever it takes to help my team win,’” Stephens said.
Stephens said that Jones will probably start taking his official visits in the coming season.
“The eggs are more in the basket of Bama, but I think he’s open to seeing what everyone else has to offer,” Stephens said. “Because at the end of the day, this is a decision that he’s making that can change his life forever.”