What Oscar Smith High School coach Richard Morgan already thought he knew about his star linebacker, Jerod Askew, was confirmed during the playoffs last year.
Facing the top-rated running back in the state of Virginia and with a region championship on the line, Morgan challenged his star pupil to rise to the occasion. The running back was held to less than 50 rushing yards, Askew made plays all over the field and Oscar Smith High School had its region championship.
A four-star linebacker considered the top run-stuffer in the 2009 class by Rivals.com, the Chesapeake, Va., native formally announced his verbal commitment on Wednesday to Tennessee.
"He's had so many big plays in big moments, but I think last year, in the region championship game, we were playing a team that had the top running back in the state, and Jerod made it his mission to shut down the kid," Morgan said. "He repeatedly kept hitting the kid for no gain or a loss, and he really imposed his will on the football field. He really had it turned on that night, held the kid to like 40 yards rushing and we won the region championship."
Askew eyes a much bigger prize this season, and on the heels of his visit to Tennessee last weekend felt the timing was right to choose the Vols, who benefited from the recruiting prowess of wide receivers coach Latrell Scott and success of another Tidewater, Va., native - 2008 first round draft pick Jerod Mayo.
"It felt like that was a place I could see me being at; everything was just right," Askew said of his weekend on Rocky Top. "There was a lot of stuff around campus, the coaches are good, I liked all the players, academic-wise, it's got a good business school and that's what i was looking at getting into."
Before any of that, however, Askew is pursuing a state championship for his high school. He's doing his part on the field to help deliver. Last week, he had what would have been his first career defensive touchdown nullified by a clipping penalty on his interception return.
"Man, it's a big opportunity," said Askew, who has developed a friendship with Mayo. "Now since I got (the decision) out the way, I can sort of stretch and go on with the season and try to win a state title. When you have a lot of decisions in front of your face, once you make that first decision, that's already set. Now I'm just set on a state title."
Though Askew was denied the end zone last weekend, he's got five interceptions in his last season-plus and gets considerable credit from Morgan for his football instincts.
"He's grown in a lot of ways," said Morgan, who has had 13 players in 6 years head to D1 football from Oscar Smith. "He's grown physically as football player, he's a tremendous combination of size and speed and ability and you just don't see that very much in high school athletes. He has a real instinct for football, and is just getting a better and better understanding. He dominates on the field. It's gotten to the point now where it's tough to stop him and he's going to make plays and get his tackles and is real hungry for the ball. He's just a great kid, and he gives everything he has on football field."
Giving the news that he'd chosen Tennessee to his mother was a special moment for Askew.
"She cried, shed a couple of tears," said Askew, who will become the first person in his family to attend college. "It was a good feeling for her."
Much as Askew's feelings inside Neyland Stadium, and the Volunteers program, helped convince him Tennessee would be the right fit.
"Oh man, it was awesome. Almost 100,000 fans, you can't just walk in there and not be surprised," he said. "It was so loud in there your ears were kind of hurting ...
"Oh man, and I love that defense. That's where I fit at. A 4-3, 3-3 kind of when they blitz, and that's my style of playing, plus they've put a lot of players in NFL from that defense and their D-line is real big and fast and most of them probably will be there a couple more years when I get there."
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