KNOXVILLE – With National Signing Day looming on Wednesday, Tennessee finally has its running back in the 2013 class.
Jabo Lee, a 5-9, 175-pound back out of Dillon, S.C., committed to the Vols late on Monday night, according to CarolinaLive.com.
Lee flipped his pledge despite being committed to East Carolina since April 27, 2012. After a huge junior season, Lee sustained a knee injury in the first game of his senior season and played sparingly in 2012.
As a junior, he totaled 1,642 yards and 26 touchdowns for Dillon High. The previous year he piled up 1,540 yards and 20 touchdowns on 184 carries.
“Lee is a quick-hitting zone runner who displays the patience to find a seam and burst to daylight,” ESPN.com wrote in a scouting report. “Possesses a solid, compact build with good playing strength. Speed is good but is a bit of a short stepper hindering his top end speed to be a consistent threat.”
Lee also held offers from ECU, Minnesota, Bowling Green and Virginia Tech. Some schools held back their scholarship offer after his injury.
He becomes the 18th commitment for Tennessee and the first running back to pledge to new coach Butch Jones.
ESPN.com: 3-star, No. 113 RB
Rivals.com: 3-star, No. 46 RB
Scout.com: 3-star, No. 102 RB
247Sports: 3-star, No. 13 all-purpose back
247Sports composite (average of major recruiting sites): 3-star, No. 15 best all-purpose back
Nooga.com analysis: Lee makes sense for Tennessee right now. After missing out on top target Derrick Green at the position, the Vols needed to take somebody in this class and Lee assures them that they will have a running back.
He played in a spread offense in high school that has some similarities to what Jones is installing at UT. He’s got decent speed and great vision when he runs. If he can fully recover from his knee injury, he could blossom into a good complimentary back in the SEC.
How he fits: He’s the only running back commitment thus far in this class and it might stay that way. The Vols are finalists for four-star Johnathan Ford, but most recruiting analysts are projecting him to sign with Auburn on Wednesday.
That means there could be an opportunity for playing time sooner than later for Lee. Most of the carries will likely be split between rising senior Rajion Neal and junior Marlin Lane next season.
However, they’ll both move on in the next couple of years, leaving only Tom Smith, Alden Hill and Devrin Young as the scholarship running backs on the team. None have proven capable of being regular contributors at running back to this point.
Running back will be a huge priority in the next two classes, so there’s always the chance that Lee could be recruited over, but based on what’s currently on the roster, he’ll have plenty of chances to contribute in the near future.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga