‘23 IN LB Aycen Stevens

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The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Stevens said he’s not ready to name any early favorites among the eight schools pursuing him. But he’s already giving Tennessee strong consideration, and there’s a reason he already has made three trips to Knoxville since late June.

“I really love the place,” he said. “I do feel like they’re doing a really good job of recruiting me, too. They try to get me down as much as possible, so that’s a big thing. I like to show people love that show me love.”

Stevens said he was encouraged by the Vols’ performance Saturday afternoon, even in a losing effort.

“They didn’t come up with the win,” he said. “I feel like they made some not errors, but just errors at the wrong time. I feel like, if they clean that stuff up, they’re going to win some big games this year. I can already tell with the new coaching staff.”

He said he believes Tennessee is on the right track under first-year coach Josh Heupel’s staff because of “just the energy on the sidelines, (and) energy in the stands, really, too.”

Stevens said he wasn’t necessarily focused on the outcome of Saturday’s game going into the visit.

“That’s not really a concern on my part, because I know from the past experience, from where they’ve been, they turn programs around,” he said of Heupel’s staff. “They win football games, so I’m not really worried about that.

“There wasn’t really anything that I particularly looked for going into the game. I just wanted to see how I would fit into their program, I guess.”

Tennessee is recruiting him to play linebacker, while some other teams have expressed interest in playing him at other positions.

“We talked about it a little bit, because I play inside and outside linebacker, so I’m not really sure once I get to college where exactly I’ll be playing,” Stevens said. “The more positions I play, the better chance (I will have) of getting on the field, which is always a plus.

“But the way they play, they’re fast and physical, which I think my game fits that,” he added, referring to the Vols. “Really, whatever gets me on the field first.”

Mike Ekeler, Tennessee’s outside linebacker coach and special teams coordinator, has stayed in contact with Stevens on a regular basis, along with Alex Golesh, the Vols’ offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Tennessee quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle also stopped at Decatur Central on Sept. 3 to check on Stevens, who’s the younger brother of former Penn State and Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens.

“He just stopped by during the day,” the younger Stevens said of Halzle. “That was a really big deal. With my brother, he always used to have coaches come in and see him during school, and I always thought that was pretty cool. So them being the first team to actually come in and see me during school was pretty cool.

“I talk to Coach Ekeler a lot, and Coach Golesh. They usually hit me up at least twice a week, probably, if I had to guess. I got to talk to them before the game and after the game, so it was pretty cool. They were just glad to see us, see me and the family again. We talked a little bit about the game after. … They just felt like they should’ve won. They made some costly mistakes there toward the end, which was just a timing thing.”
-Callahan
 

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