Potomac (Md.) rising senior Jerome Dews arrived at the University of Tennessee for his third football camp in as many days on June 15 without much expectation. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound linebacker/wide receiver had already left one-day stops at North Carolina State and Vanderbilt without adding to his Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer total, and he also knew the Volunteers had nearly filled their 2014 recruiting class.
Dews offered an oral commitment to Tennessee on Monday night, nine days after impressing the Volunteer coaching staff at the camp. He held seven scholarship offers in all but just one other at the FBS level in Temple.
Potomac Coach Ronnie Crump said Tennessee initially could not guarantee a slot in the 2014 class and last week had offered a grayshirt arrangement in which Dews would join the 2015 class. But on Monday night, Head Coach Butch Jones, defensive coordinator John Jancek and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen called to assure him that a linebacker spot in the 2014 class would be available and Dews quickly accepted.
“For them to be an SEC school and take that chance on me with me having no other big offers shows they’re nothing but real people,” said Dews, who as of early Tuesday morning did not have a star rating from Rivals.com. “They don’t care about publicity and all that stuff, the politics. They like me, and they don’t care about none of that other stuff.”
In his first season at Potomac after transferring from Wise, where he played on the junior varsity, Dews notched 14 sacks to go along with 15 catches for 220 yards and two scores. (Check out the highlights here.) Those efforts coupled with a strong performance on the summer camp circuit helped boost his recruiting profile but scholarship offers came slowly with some schools wanting to wait and watch him early in his senior season.
Dews, who does not turn 17 until November, garnered his first offer from Temple in March and added FCS offers from Delaware, James Madison, Robert Morris, St. Francis (Pa.) and Hampton in recent weeks. He had strong interest from several Mid-American Conference schools and a few Bowl Championship Series schools were also keeping tabs, according to Crump.
At Tennessee, Dews did enough to convince Jones and the staff of his potential as a BCS recruit on defense. It didn’t take Dews long to realize he wanted to be there, too. He plans to join H.D. Woodson All-Met cornerback D’Andre Payne, a friend, in the 2014 recruiting class.
“Man, I love everything about Tennessee,” Dews said. “I just love the coaches. I love Coach Jones. I love Coach Thig. You don’t usually fall in love that quick. It’s crazy. I can’t even explain how happy I am.”
Dews said he realized he’d caught the Tennessee coaches’ attention after a strong effort in the three-cone drill, showcasing uncommon quickness and agility for his size.
In one-on-one defensive drills, Dews said he came up with three interceptions and allowed just one catch, a reception to Tennessee-bound tight end Daniel Helm. After that, he asked to go do offensive one-on-ones and continued to shine as a wide receiver.
By the end of the day, Jones had Dews and Crump in his office and said he was “98 percent sure” he would offer in a few days after going over tape of the camp and Dews’ junior highlights.
“He was the big surprise of the camp,” Crump said. “There were some heavy hitters there, too. … Basically, they told me his upside is just too great to not offer.”