In the middle of the week last week, Tennessee and head coach Jeremy Pruitt announced that suspended cornerback Bryce Thompson would be allowed back at practice and could participate in team activities. Thompson had been suspended indefinitely since August 26th after being charged with domestic assault the previous weekend.
“As university processes have progressed relating to Bryce Thompson, we’ve all taken this situation very seriously,” Pruitt said via a statement last week. “I believe Bryce can grow by following the plan the university has put in place for him. As a result, I am allowing him to return to practice.”
The sophomore cornerback was back at practice that Wednesday afternoon, but he did not play against UT-Chattanooga on Saturday.
When asked if the newly reinstated defensive back would travel with the team when they head down to Gainesville this weekend to take on the Florida Gators, Pruitt was short and sweet with his answer during his weekly Monday press conference.
“I’ve not decided that.”
This weekend’s game against the Gators will be Tennessee’s first road trip of the season. The travel roster for football teams is significantly smaller than the roster a team keeps on the sideline for home games. Only essential personnel who have a chance of playing are taken on road trips.
Thompson still has a court date set for September 23rd after appearing in court for his first hearing back on September 3rd. It remains to be seen if Thompson will (or can) play before that second court date. The court appearance will come during Tennessee’s first bye week, meaning he could be cleared to play against Georgia for his first game of the season if he doesn’t make the trip down to Florida for Saturday’s contest.
The Vols have started a couple different combinations at cornerback in Thompson’s absence. Sophomore Alontae Taylor and true freshman Warren Burrell started the first two games at the two main cornerback spots, but Kenneth George Jr. took Taylor’s starting role over the weekend against UT-Chattanooga. Shawn Shamburger has primarily been the nickelback when UT has been in their nickel defense.
Through three games this season, the Vols have allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game in the SEC, giving up just 149 yards a game. But some of that is misleading, as teams have attempted just 80 passes against UT, the third-lowest number in the SEC. The Vols hadn’t picked off a pass all season until Saturday when the defense intercepted four UTC passes. Two of them came from players in the secondary (Nigel Warrior, Kenney Solomon).
As a true freshman, Thompson played in all 12 games for the Vols and made 10 starts. He was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and was selected to the 2018 SEC All-Freshman Team. Thompson was one of three true freshmen to earn starts in the secondary for the Vols in 2018.
Thompson finished his freshman campaign with 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, three interceptions, 10 passes defended, and a forced fumble. He also returned four kick-offs for an average of 25 yards a return.