Starkville High School's Clemons commits to Tennessee

Starkville High School defensive end Jalil Clemons, left

Staff Writer

It didn't take long for Starkville High School head football coach Chris Jones to realize he had a special player in Jalil Clemons.

Clemons impressed Jones immediately with the way he played defense.

"I've always thought he was one of the best ones from day one," Jones said. "(He has) a high motor. Last year at the start of the season, he came in with an ankle injury, so he had a slow start, but he's always been pretty good.

"He's great with his hands and has great ball get-off. He's a football player and actually played tight end if we need him to. He's one of the best guys on our team."

On Sunday, the 6-2, 240-pound Clemons announced his commitment to attend the University of Tennessee after his senior season with the Yellowjackets.

Clemons felt the need to go ahead and let his intentions known after being recruited by the Volunteers. He was offered a scholarship by Tennessee in May.

"I felt like it was time," Clemons said. "Tennessee coaches have everything I need. They've got a great coaching staff and great scheme."

Clemons had a solid junior season with SHS with 73 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and five forced fumbles.

With the new coaching staff of the Vols led by defensive guru Jeremy Pruitt as head coach, Jones believes that Clemons will find the system in Knoxville much to his liking as a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker.

Clemons also had offers from Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, UAB, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Texas-San Antonio, but Jones liked that he settled on Tennessee.

"Honestly, with me growing up, Tennessee was a place a lot of kids wanted to go," Jones said. "People have forgotten about who they are. Back in the day, they were always competing for the SEC championship with Florida. I think it is a good place at the end of the day. He feels comfortable with it after he took his visit, so I'm proud of him."

Before joining the Vols, Clemons has one little bit of unfinished business with the Jackets.

Starkville reached the Class 6A State championship game last season, but was defeated by Pearl.

Clemons wants to make sure the Jackets are able to claim the 6A trophy this season.

"I'm taking a leadership role right now and just trying to get my team to a championship," Clemons said.