Tennessee is “Dream School” for South Carolina Linebacker

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    (Photo via Alex Hicks Jr./Spartanburg Herald-Journal)

    On Saturday, Tennessee extended an offer to a linebacker out of South Carolina, and he called UT his “dream school.”

    Jemari Littlejohn is a 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker who plays for Gaffney High School in Gaffney, South Carolina. He picked up an offer from the Vols on Saturday, and in his tweet announcing the offer he called Tennessee his “dream school.”

    Shortly after he announced his offer from the Vols, I spoke with Littlejohn and asked him why Tennessee is the school of his dreams.

    “Well, it’s been my dream school because of the tradition the school has had for many years and how they produce great athletes,” Littlejohn told me, “and now most of all they have a great coaching staff. Coach Pruitt is a fantastic coach. He’s sent a lot of players to the NFL, and that’s the goal.

    “He also has a plan for your future, and that’s the main goal.”

    Along with having one of the best names in the 2020 recruiting cycle, Jemari Littlejohn is also starting to catch the attention of some bigger programs. Tennessee is his second Power Five offer, with the first coming from West Virginia. East Carolina, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga, and Western Kentucky have all given him offers as well.

    Tennessee quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke was the UT coach to extend the offer to Littlejohn.

    “Coach Wienke got in touch with my head coach, and he told my head coach how much Coach Pruitt likes my film,” Littlejohn said. “So coach Wienke called me, and we discussed how much they liked me and the things I could do for the team, also the role I would play. Also, he wanted me to come down to let coach Pruitt work on some things with me on the field.

    “I will definitely be going back down to do that.”

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    Littlejohn said the offer was “truly an honor” and that Tennessee likes him at inside linebacker rather than outside linebacker. While he doesn’t have anything official set up to make a visit to Knoxville, it’s clear that UT’s staff has made an impression on him.

    Not only is Littlejohn an interesting prospect on his own, but he’s also friends with a highly-rated target on Tennessee’s board.

    Littlejohn is friends with elite four-star linebacker Trenton Simpson out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Simpson is a top-100 overall player, and he just recently included the Vols in his list of top five schools moving forward in his recruitment.

    “We’re friends. We go to a lot of camps together, and we have a game this year against him,” Littlejohn said of Simpson.

    But what kind of player is Littlejohn himself? According to the linebacker out of Gaffney, the biggest strengths to his game are his speed, strength, and his “field smarts.”

    “I am very smart on the field, and I can read plays very well to find out where the ball is going,” he told me.

    As for what he wants to work on the most, Littlejohn said that would be his hand work and block shedding. He says he needs to get better at doing those two things to really take his game to the next level.

    After watching his film myself, Littlejohn’s assessment of his play is pretty spot on. He’s really quick off the edge and can roam the entire field. He chases down running backs and gets into the backfield with ease. Not only that, but he does a great job of identifying plays and reading the ball carrier. His strength is on display on a lot of his tackles, and there was a moment on one play where he completely blew up a guard and blasted into the backfield. He does need to work on his hand placement when trying to shed blocks, and his technique could use some tuneups. Overall, though, Littlejohn is a very solid player who just has a knack for making plays.

    Littlejohn not only looks good on film, but he’s a beast in the weight room and in testing, too. He’s been recorded running a 4.61-second 40-yard dash, a 4.46-second shuttle, and has a 35-inch vertical leap. He can also squat 460 pounds and can bench press 315 pounds.

    As a junior for Gaffney, Littlejohn racked up 74 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, a blocked punt, three pass breakups, and an interception he returned for a touchdown.

    Littlejohn helped Gaffney get to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs where they lost by just four points. While he believes he and his team had a great 2018, he’s looking forward to the 2019 season even more.

    “I think I did great actually,” Littlejohn said of his junior season. “I mean I think I could have worked on my hands a little more with getting off blocks, but I’ve worked on that through the whole offseason. So this year will be amazing for me and my team.”

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.