A year after the Vols lost over a dozen players due to transfer or simply leaving the program for various reasons, Tennessee fans are reminded that it’s the time of year that players begin to weigh their options going forward.
So far, redshirt junior kicker George Bullock, who was honored on Senior Day, is the only player with eligibility remaining that we know will be moving on. But asked about the general trend in college football during his postseason press conference this past week, Butch Jones labeled this as “the age of transfer.”
“It almost gets to a point where you’re recruiting more of your current team than you are your prospective team – with prospective student-athletes,” Jones said. “I think it’s just talking, having open dialogue, and it has been kind of the age of the transfer. I think that’s just part of the generation and the society of – you always think it’s better somewhere else, you can go somewhere and maybe play more.
“But we’ll sit down if there’s anyone and we’ll have those conversations, we’ll map out their future, their career here, the things they need to do here to continue to improve, but it is reality – it is part of our profession. It’s not just at Tennessee, it’s everywhere across the country. And every coach has to deal with it. I deal with it with face-to-face communication, I love our players, I love everyone in our program and it’s all about a good fit for them and trying to continue to improve them on a daily basis.”
After a period of four head coaches at Tennessee from 2008-13, Jones is bringing more stability than UT has seen in almost a decade, and will have a roster in 2016 that overwhelmingly consists of players he recruited and signed. But Jones’ rebuilding plan has also been aggressive – with large signing classes so far, and plenty of high-end talent at some spots that could make some players seek playing time elsewhere.
The Vols, in particular, have top-end talent at running back, quarterback and on the defensive line with some younger players down the depth chart that will have a hard time seeing the field in 2016. Wide receiver will be another interesting position to watch after UT failed to utilize that group in the passing game on a consistent basis in 2015. No individual receiver had more than 40 receptions on the season or more than 400 yards.
A standard amount of attrition – perhaps six to 10 players who are a bit buried on the depth chart – is generally expected at this level of college football and can help free room up to pursue more players in recruiting, as teams have to stay at the 85-scholarship roster limit. But will there be more than that for Tennessee this year? We’ll only know as the offseason plays out, though Jones’ comments seem to suggest that UT will at least be faced with the “reality” as Jones put it that he’ll have to re-recruit some of his own roster.