Right before the start of Tennessee’s fall camp, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kurott Garland put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. On Tuesday, Garland was back out on the practice field with the Vols, and head coach Jeremy Pruitt confirmed the young lineman was back with the team.
Pruitt met with the media after practice on Tuesday, and he was asked about Garland’s appearance back on the practice field. UT’s head coach said back before the start of fall camp that Garland had the opportunity to return to the team if he so wished, and he took advantage of that rule with the transfer portal.
“I told you guys before when you asked me this: The portal, a lot of people look at it as a bad thing; I’m not one that looks at it that way,” Pruitt said on Tuesday. “You’re talking about a young man that comes here as a freshman, he had several obstacles to go through physically. He was thinking about possibly transferring. We supported him all the way through, and in the end he decided to come back here. He’s here. We’re excited that he’s here.”
Garland joined Tennessee as part of their 2018 signing class out of Conyers, Georgia. He played for Heritage High School and was a class 6A Second Team All-State Defensive Lineman. Garland was a late addition to UT’s 2018 class shortly after Jeremy Pruitt took over as head coach and was scouring all-star lists for some unheralded yet talented prospects.
As a senior, Garland amassed 125 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks for Heritage. In his last two years of high school, he totaled 251 tackles, 24.5 sacks, and 65 tackles for loss.
Garland appeared in four games for the Vols last season, but he didn’t register any stats and redshirted. Though he didn’t have a big impact on the team last season and hasn’t been able to practice much in 2019, Pruitt still has high hopes for the 6-foot-3, 304-pound lineman and is excited to have him on the team.
“I think the guy has lots of ability,” Pruitt said of Garland. “He didn’t get to go through spring, but he took some reps out there today, and he’s gotta go through a little bit of acclimation here. We have a plan for him. He’s a guy I think that has lots of upside, has done everything that we’ve asked him to do in this program since he’s been here.
“So, we’re excited that he’s here, and we’ll see how he responds over the next couple days being back out there.”
If Garland can acclimate quickly and stay healthy, he may be called upon at some point this season to contribute. The Vols don’t have much in the way of experienced bodies along the defensive line, and with Emmit Gooden lost for the season due to injury and Aubrey Solomon’s status still up in the air, Tennessee needs all the help they can get right now.
With Gooden out and assuming Solomon can’t play, the Vols have just 10 scholarship defensive linemen on their roster. If Solomon is granted immediate eligibility, that would give UT 11 scholarship defensive linemen in 2019. But of those 11 players, four weren’t on the roster at all last season, and a total of seven of those 11 linemen have played in five or fewer games as a college player in their careers.