Tennessee Junior Safety Leaving Program

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    A defensive starter from the final regular season game of 2016 is moving on from the program.

    Rising junior Stephen Griffin, who appeared in 18 career games for the Vols, starting  one against Vanderbilt last year, is no longer on the team, according to multiple reports and confirmed by a team spokesman.

    The son of a former Clemson running back, Griffin chose the Vols in the 2015 class and has spent most of his time as a reserve safety and special teams player, while also battling through some injuries. With Tennessee thin in the secondary late in 2016 due to injuries, Griffin got extended opportunities against Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. He finishes his UT career with 18 total tackles, one TFL and a forced fumble.

    Micah Abernathy, who is out for the spring, and senior Todd Kelly Jr. are expected to start at safety in 2017, but they will be pushed by Evan Berry and Nigel Warrior, giving UT several strong options in the secondary even before newcomers such as Maleik Gray and Theo Jackson arrive over the summer.

    It would’ve been an uphill battle for Griffin to get in the conversation to start in 2017, but the Vols will miss an important special teams player and some quality depth in the secondary.

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