The postseason is a time to prepare for a bowl matchup, but it can also be decision time about the future for some players on the roster.
Tennessee has at least two players in junior cornerback Cam Sutton and junior outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin that could explore their options in terms of potentially entering the NFL Draft in 2016.
Butch Jones said there’s no set timetable on when players need to make their decision.
“We still have time,” Jones said Tuesday. “We’ll provide the necessary means, and that’s the thing with the resources and all the NFL personnel we have on our staff and also the relationships that we have at the next level. And it’s educating your players to make the best possible decisions for them and their careers and the longevity of their careers and their families. And Tennessee is a very special place obviously to be at. We’ll have ongoing discussion, we talk all the time, but nothing significant, but we’ll sit down as it progresses.
“No timetable [in terms of needing to make a decision before the bowl]. You know, whenever they feel comfortable, and a lot of times it takes awhile. I do wish the process was faster, but again we have all the facts for them and again it’s all about educating individuals on making great decisions. But I respect them, I respect all of our players and their decisions.”
Sutton set the UT single-season record with 467 punt return yards in 2015 and scored twice. He’s also started all 37 career games at cornerback and has become one of the most reliable cover corners in the SEC. Heading into the bowl game, he has six career interceptions and is fourth in passes defended in UT history with 32, one slot ahead of Eric Berry (31). NFLDraftScout.com ranks Sutton as the No. 8 corner for the class of 2017.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was UT’s most productive defensive player in the 2015 regular season with 99 tackles, 13 TFLs and was second on the team with five sacks. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Reeves-Maybin as the No. 6 outside linebacker for the class of 2017.
And for the second straight offseason, defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt will be facing a decision about his future as well.
The now fifth-year senior chose to come back for his senior year in 2015, but after playing in just two games in 2015 after suffering a hip injury, he has the option to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, only granted on an appeals basis by the NCAA for players who missed two seasons of eligibility for reasons beyond their control.
“It’s always an option,” Jones said. “There isn’t a timeframe or a time limit or an expiration date of when you can get the sixth year – it’s really what alligns for Curt. Curt’s done some amazing things here, he’s already graduated, he’s embedded in the fabric of our community, so we’ll just support him with what he wants to do. Being at Tennessee means a lot to Curt, so this is a decision that is very challenging to him. We’ll be there to support him one way or the other. He is a Vol For Life. Obviously we’d love to have him here.”