KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Sophomore cornerback Daniel Gray, who earned a start in Tennessee’s beleaguered secondary as a true freshman in 2012, is no longer with the Vols.
The departure alters Tennessee’s roster outlook and also further depletes the shrinking 2012 signing class.
The Vols also missed their top nickel back, fifth-year senior Eric Gordon, for most of the spring. Gordon is out while battling personal problems. Although it hasn’t been officially announced — and might not be until August — it appears increasingly unlikely that Gordon will return to the football field.
So where does that leave Tennessee’s roster for 2013?
Tennessee is down to 11 scholarship defensive backs, plus two more who will arrive this summer.
The newcomers are Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman. Here are the remaining players who went through the spring, listed by class.
Seniors: Byron Moore, Naz Oliver.
Juniors: Justin Coleman, Jaron Toney, Riyahd Jones (juco transfer).
Sophomores: LaDarrell McNeil, Brian Randolph, Geraldo Orta.
Redshirt freshman: Tino Thomas.
True freshmen: Lemond Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
While this isn’t necessary a depth crisis, it’s worth noting that only five players — Moore, Coleman, Toney, McNeil and Randolph — have meaningful college experience. Veteran reserves like Oliver, Orta and Thomas (who has been hurt) offered little indication they were ready for a major role this spring.
It will be interesting to see if any struggling receivers get a look at defensive back this summer.
The Vols have loaded up on receivers, defensive backs and “athletes” in the last two classes, so there will be reinforcements coming. But perhaps not soon enough.
Gray’s departure also diminishes the Class of 2012, which was already the lowest ranked of the three recruiting classes former coach Derek Dooley signed at UT. Only 15 players remain from the group that signed 15 months ago.
Here are the numbers on the remaining 66 scholarship players. This does not include Gray, Gordon, signees who have not yet enrolled or walk-on players who received scholarships for only the spring semester. It does include other former walk-ons who have been placed on scholarship.
BY YEAR AT UT:
GAMES PLAYED AT UT:
30 or more: 14
GAMES STARTED AT UT:
20 or more: 5
BY HOME STATE:
South Carolina: 4
Illinois, Mississippi, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas: 1 each
BY SIGNING CLASS:
* four players started their careers as walk-ons
* one player (Alex Bullard) transferred from Notre Dame
* one player (Tino Thomas) signed in 2011, but enrolled in 2012 and is included in the 2012 class.
BY 247 COMPOSITE RANKING:
5 stars: 1
4 stars: 19
3 stars: 39
2 stars: 2
* five players were not ranked
Photo credit Michael Patrick, KNS.