Videos by OutKick
Tennessee is getting ready for its first run of spring ball under new head coach Josh Heupel. Despite concerns over recruiting violations under former coach Jeremy Pruitt, there is still some level of optimism in Knoxville.
Should there be though?
On Friday morning, Jesse Simonton pointed something interesting out on Twitter. The Vols will open spring practice with just 69 scholarship players, and not all of them will even be available as things get underway.
By my count, Tennessee will OPEN spring practice with ~69 scholarship players (not all of whom are available).
That is some not so nice depth for Josh Heupel in Year 1.
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) March 25, 2021
I didn’t fact-check Simonton, but surely he did his homework. If that number is correct, there is reason for concern, even though that number shouldn’t come as a complete shock.
Since Pruitt’s departure, there has been a mass exodus of current and arriving players in Knoxville. Here are some — not all — of the guys who have chosen to leave so far:
- Wanya Morris, Offensive Tackle (Oklahoma)
- Eric Gray, Running Back (Oklahoma)
- Ty Chandler, Running Back (North Carolina)
- Jarrett Guarantano, Quarterback (Washington State)
- J.T. Shrout, Quarterback (Colorado)
- Brandon Johnson, Wide Receiver (UCF)
- Jahmir Johnson, Offensive Tackle (Texas A&M)
- Key Lawrence, Safety (Oklahoma)
- Deandre Johnson, Outside Linebacker (Miami)
- Brent Cimaglia, Kicker (Georgia Tech)
Three different tight ends have also entered the portal: Jordan Allen, Jackson Lowe and, most recently, Sean Brown. That doesn’t even include the guys who are currently in the portal and are expected to go elsewhere.
- Henry To’o To’o, Inside Linebacker
- Quavaris Crouch, Inside Linebacker
- J.J. Peterson, Inside Linebacker
- Kivon Bennett, Outside Linebacker
- Emmit Gooden, Defensive Line
As if that wasn’t enough, there have been multiple high-profile recruits from the 2021 class who initially signed with Tennessee who then decided to go elsewhere.
- Dylan Brooks, Four-star linebacker
- Cody Brown, Four-star running back
- J’Marion Gooch, Three-star offensive tackle
Looking at those losses, it’s not a surprise to see the Vols struggling to hit that 85 scholarship limit. There are a few things to note, however.
One, there are still seven recruits who haven’t arrived on campus yet. That would at least put that number in the mid-70s. But also, when compared to other schools, these numbers might actually give Tennessee a slight advantage. Due to the extra eligibility given as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have actually exceeded the permitted 85 scholarships.
No matter how you slice it, this Tennessee program is in rough shape right now, and it might not be fixed anytime soon.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.