Tag Archives: Tino Thomas

We think Tennessee has 31 scholarships to give — here’s how we came up with that number

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — In all the talk about Tennessee’s numbers crunch, there’s one question we don’t know with absolute certainty.

Just how many scholarships does Tennessee have to offer in this recruiting cycle?

For competitive reasons, most teams like to keep that exact number under wraps.

Tennessee, like all teams, can offer no more than 25 initial scholarships in any given year. But they can “count back” some scholarships against the previous class, provided the prospects enroll early and there is space available.

One problem in determining the back-counted scholarships is that back-counting seemingly can go on in perpetuity.

Also, there’s no way of knowing for certain which players arrive with a scholarship and which are walk-ons. That distinction may become even more confusing in this recruiting cycle.

But we can make some educated guesses. And I feel fairly confident in saying that 31 is as good a “magic number” as any this year. Thanks to colleague Daniel Lewis, who helped me hash out some of the details during a math-heavy instant-message conversation. The result was this tabulation that I transferred to a spreadsheet above.

If you just want to trust me on 31 scholarships and skip this part, I don’t blame you. But here’s the nitty-gritty:

The Vols had 22 scholarship players in the 2013 cycle (after subtracting Jabo Lee and adding late signees Johnathon Johnson and Kendal Vickers).

They were able to count three of those back to 2012. The 2012 class had 23 scholarship players (including the gray-shirted Tino Thomas), and was able to count one against 2011.

This is where it becomes confusing, and this is where I think UT’s 2014 maximum grew from 30 to 31. Thomas was gray-shirted and pushed into the 2012 class because Derek Dooley didn’t think there would be room in the 2011 class. As it turns out, however, some very late academic casualties opened up a couple more slots that would have allowed Thomas to enroll. So after back-counting two early enrollees to 2010, UT had only 24 initial scholarships in 2011, allowing the Vols to count back one scholarship from 2012.

The trickle-down effect of that academic casualty in the summer of 2011 action may have led to an extra scholarship in 2014.

Of course, Tennessee may sign more than 31 on Wednesday. But that’s another story.

Tennessee football position preview: Defensive backs will face fresh competition for jobs

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The eighth in a series of position-by-position reviews of the Tennessee football team with an eye toward the start of spring practice in March.

Justin Coleman warms up before the Kentucky game (photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee is returning all of its starters and more than 90 percent of its snaps at defensive back in 2014, which might normally be construed as good news.

But as the Vols’ defense has struggled at times over the last two years, the defensive backs have taken a heavy load of the blame.

While not all that criticism was fair, Tennessee’s lack of speed and depth were factors at times in 2013. That should ensure that no one’s job is safe in 2014.

Well, almost no one.

Cameron Sutton, who played a team-high 746 snaps on defense as a true freshman in 2013, can probably be safely penciled in as one of the cornerbacks.

Justin Coleman could be an option to shift to nickel if the Vols’ can find another Sutton waiting to blossom among their crop of new players.

Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil could also face added competition. At the very least, all the starters should have backups that coaches feel more comfortable giving playing time.

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Departure of 3 players slims Vols’ scholarship roster for new arrivals to come (with updated roster)

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The expected attrition on Tennessee’s roster is already under way.

Running back Tom Smith, defensive back Tino Thomas and receiver Paul Harris are moving on and have been given releases to transfer to other programs.

The only mild surprise among those three players is Harris, who arrived in January to lofty praise from coaches. But he struggled mightily in spring and never was able to turn a corner in the fall. With an influx of new receivers on the way, his best chance at playing time had already come and gone.

Thomas was a grayshirt who signed in 2011 but delayed his enrollment until 2012. He finally played a few games on special teams in 2013, but his contributions were limited beyond that.

Smith actually did quite well in garbage-time opportunities in spring and some early-season games. But his chances of ever having a meaningful role as a running back were slim. And unlike fellow reserve running back Alden Hill, Smith never caught on as a special-teamer.

There could be more departures to come, of course, but the Vols already have plenty of breathing room under the 85-man scholarship limit. By my unofficial count, the Vols have 55 players on scholarship, but that includes some former walk-ons who could be dropped back down to walk-on status.

Even beyond that, there are plenty of other candidates for attrition among scholarship players. But coaches won’t have to press that issue until the summer.