Tennessee finally has some reinforcement in the post for coach Donnie Tyndall’s first season.
After a couple days of speculation, the Vols made the addition of forward Dominic Woodson official on Friday afternoon. The 6-10, 290-pound Memphis transfer will be classified as a sophomore and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
His eligibility status for 2014-15 has yet to be determined, though Tennessee is optimistic that the big man will be able to get a “run-off waiver” that will allow him to play this season.
“Dominic certainly adds some physicality and size to our frontline,” Tyndall said. “He has great upside. If he continues to improve his body and conditioning, he’ll have a chance to be a very good player at this level.”
Originally a four-star prospect from Round Rock, Tex., Woodson also played at Huntington Prep in West Virginia and was a top-100 prospect in the 2013 recruiting class. He appeared in 20 games as a freshman at Memphis, averaging 2.5 points per contest along with 1.9 rebounds.
“First of all, thank you to (head coach Josh Pastner), his staff and the University of Memphis for the great opportunity they gave me,” Woodson said in a Tennessee release. “I’m very excited about my opportunity to be at Tennessee and play for Coach Tyndall.
“I’ve learned from my mistakes and realize I have a lot of work to do to achieve my goals and dreams. My efforts moving forward will be focused on making my family and all the people who have helped me proud.”
Woodson was reportedly suspended twice last season – once for cursing and once for a flagrant foul. CBSSports.com reported that Memphis will tell the NCAA that Woodson’s scholarship wasn’t renewed, increasing his odds of getting a “run-off waiver.”
In September of 2012, the NCAA set forth several guidelines Woodson must meet in order to be granted a run-off waiver.
(1) Documentation demonstrating that the student-athlete would not have had the opportunity to return to the previous institution’s team for reasons outside the control of the student-athlete.
(2) A written statement from the applicant institution indicating that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and meets all progress-toward-degree requirements at applicant institution.
(3) A written statement from the student-athlete’s previous institution indicating that the previous institution supports the waiver request.
Woodson appears to meet all the above criteria. Memphis revoked his scholarship (which presumably takes care of No. 1), and he was, by all reports, in good academic standing and even carried a 3.0 GPA last fall (No.2). His former head coach, Josh Pastner, told the News Sentinel, “I’m not opposed at all for Dom Woodson to play right away. I want what is best for him.” That covers requirement No. 3.
The only area where Woodson could be in trouble has to do with the “reasons outside the control of the student-athlete” portion of guideline No.1. Though he was never formally charged with any wrongdoing during his time at Memphis, he was suspended twice for actions presumably within his control (cursing and a flagrant foul. He was also involved in a fight with a football player over the summer, though he was not reported to be the aggressor in the fight. Pastner supporting his eligibility should overrule those concerns, but the rational doesn’t always win the day when it comes to the NCAA.
Woodson will be the largest man on Tennessee’s roster by a good 70 pounds. Swingman Derek Reese, the next heaviest on the roster, weighs in at 220 pounds. Tennessee lost Eric McKnight, a Florida Gulf Coast transfer, earlier in the offseason when the SEC didn’t allow his transfer to go through, leaving a large void in the paint for the 2014-15 squad.
Woodson is the ninth newcomer Tyndall will welcome for next season – completing a massive overhaul of the depleted roster he inherited upon taking the Tennessee job in April.
Though he didn’t get to showcase his talents at Memphis, Woodson is a rebounding machine and a strong finisher at the rim. He has a decent face-up game and is a smart player who usually makes the correct decision with the basketball. The Vols simply don’t have anyone like him on their roster and haven’t for years.
If he’s eligible this year, he should make a big impact at Tennessee and could be the difference between the Vols struggling to get to .500 and flirting with 18 to 20 wins.