KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee has its new football coach after announcing the hiring of Josh Heupel on Tuesday, Jan. 27. With several players entering the transfer portal between the firing of Jeremy Pruitt to Tuesday’s announcement, here’s a look at the state of the Vols roster.
Tennessee has experienced major movement in its quarterback depth chart since the conclusion of the season. Senior Jarrett Guarantano, who began the 2020 season as the Vols’ starter, entered the transfer portal and will suit up in 2021 for the Washington State Cougars.
Redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout announced in late December he will continue to his collegiate career at the University of Colorado after entering the transfer portal.
Walk-on Kasim Hill is also transferring to Rhode Island.
Tennessee did have one quarterback head the other direction in the transfer portal with the acquisition of Hendon Hooker, a redshirt junior from Virginia Tech. In two seasons, Hooker started 15 games for the Hokies. He totaled 2,894 yards and 22 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. He also ran for 1,033 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Remaining QBs: Brian Maurer, Harrison Bailey, Spencer Smith and Hooker
Tennessee running backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray were some of the most productive players for the Vols in 2020, combining for more than 1,500 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Chandler announced Jan. 12 he has joined North Carolina after entering the transfer portal.
Gray announced Jan. 22 he would enter the transfer portal. On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Gray announced he would join former Vols Wanya Morris and Key Lawrence by transferring to Oklahoma.
Remaining RBs: Tee Hodge, Dee Beckwith, Fred Orr, Marcus Pierce, Antonio Malone, Len’Neth Whitehead and Jabari Small.
One of the first Tennessee players to enter the transfer portal after the season was fifth-year senior receiver Brandon Johnson. The Florida native played in four games in 2019 before opting to take a redshirt allowing him to return in 2020. His 19 receptions were tied for the fourth most on the team in 2020 and he ranked fifth in receiving yards, 231, through nine games.
Johnson will return to his home state to suit up for UCF, the former school of new Tennessee Director of Athletics Danny White and coach Heupel.
Velus Jones Jr., who transferred from Southern Cal to Tennessee in 2020, announced Jan. 4 that he will return for a second year at UT. He will use the NCAA’s waiver for an added season of eligibility amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Remaining WRs: Jones Jr., Cedric Tillman, Jimmy Calloway, Jalin Hyatt, Ramel Keyton, Jimmy Holiday, Malachi Wideman, Michael Bittner, Hudson Clark, Braden Collins, Tanner Dobrucky, Grant Frerking and Jack Jancek.
Other notable transfers
Arguably the most notable transfer portal acquisition for Tennessee besides Hendon Hooker came from within the Southeastern Confernce when Auburn defensive end Big Kat Bryant announced he was headed to Rocky Top.
Bryant, who was named second-team All-SEC this season, was a four-year contributor for Auburn, recording 10 career sacks, including three in 2020.
He will reunite with a pair of former coaches on Rocky Top including his high school coach Shelton Felton, who now coaches outside linebackers for the Vols, and his defensive coordinator at Auburn, Kevin Steele, who was hired as an assistant at Tennessee before Pruitt was fired.
Tennessee linebacking corps experienced major turnover through the transfer portal with Henry To’o To’o, Quavaris Crouch, Kivon Bennett and J.J. Peterson all entering the transfer portal.
Two other linebackers, Nyles Gaddy and Ethan Rinke, announced their transferring to Jackson State and South Alabama, respectively.
Linebacker Deandre Johnson announced Jan. 2 on social media that he’ll continue playing at Miami.
Tennessee has lost two notable defensive players to their new head coach’s alma mater, Oklahoma. Junior offensive lineman Wanya Morris announced Jan. 18 his transfer to the Sooners. He started in seven of 10 games this past season, playing at left tackle for five games. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Georgia native was a five-star recruit and a top-15 prospect nationally out of high school.
Morris will be joined by sophomore safety Key Lawrence in Norman. The Nashville native saw action in all 10 games as a reserve defensive back and special teams contributor during his true freshman season at Tennessee.
Senior defensive back Baylen Buchanan also entered the transfer portal this off-season. The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native will finish out his collegiate career with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
Other transfers include offensive Jarious Abercrombie to transferring to Illinois State and tight end Jordan Allen to Weber State. Tight end Jackson Lowe has also entered the transfer portal but has not made a decision as to where he will play in 2021. Tight end and former Christian Academy of Knoxville standout Austin Pope briefly entered the transfer portal and chose to return to Tennessee.