Yes, Robert Jordan did remark on similarities with Tolkien, several times.
Gerhard Hormann: Could this series have been written if The Lord of the Rings had not existed?
Robert Jordan: Hard to say. The Lord of the Rings is a milestone in the genre and in a sense laid the groundwork for what we currently call fantasy. The first 100 pages of The Eye of the World are quite similar to it. In it, you’ll find the idyllic, pristine world as in the world of Tolkien. But from that moment on, the story takes a completely different turn. My series doesn’t only touch back to British folklore, but to all religions of the world. Women don’t play a secondary role, but make up at least half the story. And it doesn’t include any elves, nor unicorns, dragons, dwarves or hobbits.
-- Dromen and Demonen interview
In the beginning, I wanted a little bit—at the beginning of The Eye of the World, I wanted a little bit of a Tolkien-esque feel. For perhaps the first 100 pages, I wanted to have that feel simply to establish that this is the foundation. Tolkien began so much of modern fantasy. Not all of it comes from him certainly, but The Lord of the Rings is this huge mountain casting a shadow over everything. Then, having said this is what you expect and this is the familiar ground, now, kiddies, we're going someplace else.
-- Robert Jordan, Science Fiction Book Club interview
The story begins with The Eye of the World. That's the first book. And it begins in a very pastoral setting, with people who are very...well, innocent is the word. They are rural, they are themselves pastoral. And I tried to make the beginning almost Tolkienesque, as a homage, and as a way of saying, "This is the foundation that we're all jumping off from." But it begins to change, because I'm not trying to do a Tolkien pastiche in any way. And as we leave that pastoral setting, things begin to change. You begin to move away from the style of Tolkien. The characters begin to learn more about the world. They become more sophisticated, in the sense of having more knowledge, and thus they see the world in a more sophisticated way. They're not as innocent, as time goes on, as the books go on, as they were in the beginning. And so the tone of the books changes slightly with their worldview.
-- Robert Jordan, Waldenbooks Hailing Frequency interview