Last Wednesday afternoon, during the Tennessee Volunteers’ open week, sophomore quarterback Harrison Bailey officially put his name in the transfer portal.
After having a full quarterback room in the spring and leading into the season, Tennessee’s quarterback depth has dwindled down to two scholarship quarterbacks: Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton III.
According to the Vols’ Week 9 depth chart, Hooker is still the starting quarterback with Milton as his backup. However, with Bailey gone, Tennessee will have to replace its third-string quarterback.
On Monday afternoon, Tennessee HC Josh Heupel spoke about his plans to fill the depth chart.
“All of our walk-on quarterbacks will be competing for that,” Heupel said about who will be filling in the third-string position. “They did last week, and we’ll do it this week too.”
Redshirt-sophomore Spencer Smith, freshman Sully McDermott, and redshirt-freshman Gaston Moore are the three walk-on quarterbacks for Tennessee. Moore came to Tennessee in the offseason after spending his first year under coach Heupel at UCF.
Bailey marks the third quarterback that began the year with the Vols, but will not end the year with Tennessee. Four-star class of 2021 quarterback Kaidon Salter transferred to Liberty in July after being dismissed from Tennessee’s team in June. Additionally, quarterback Brian Maurer began the fall with Tennessee, however, is not with the team anymore. Maurer, though, is still enrolled at the University of Tennessee.
“Harrison’s been a really good teammate inside of our program from the time that I’ve gotten in here,” Heupel said on Monday. “In some ways, disappointed (about) the timing of when he makes his decision. It’s a different era in college athletics with the transfer portal over the last couple of years. Because of who he is and what he’s been about, I love both the person and the player, and wish him a ton of success as he moves on.”
There’s no question that losing Bailey gives Tennessee a shaky quarterback situation. The play of Hooker isn’t in question, but more so his health. Before the open week, Hooker’s status was consistently day-to-day before the Alabama game as he recovered from a lower-leg injury. It does look like Hooker is getting significantly closer to full strength, however, Tennessee’s aggressive style of play has put Hooker in some big-hit positions. Meanwhile, even with a cannon for an arm, Milton has looked sporadic at best in his few appearances this season.
Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC) will travel to Lexington this Saturday night for an SEC East matchup with Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC).