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Exodus of Tennessee players begins

January 21st, 2021

A few days after Tennessee fired head football coach Jeremy Pruitt for cause, several of its top players entered their names into the NCAA transfer portal.

Linebackers Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch, running back Eric Gray and offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson entered the portal on Wednesday. All four players were starters for the Vols in 2020.

To’o To’o is the most significant loss. To’o To’o immediately became a starter upon his arrival on campus in 2019. Over his two seasons in Knoxville, To’o To’o accumulated 148 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. He led UT in tackles in 2020 and was second on the team in 2019 when he earned SEC All-Freshman honors.

Crouch was a fellow member of UT’s 2019 recruiting class. He tallied 28 tackles as a reserve as a freshman before becoming the team’s starting middle linebacker in 2020. He was third on the team with 57 tackles.

Gray was also a sophomore for the Vols in 2020. He rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. In 2020, Gray was the team’s leading rusher. He finished the season with 772 yards and four scores while adding 30 receptions for 254 yards and two more TDs.

Johnson started 17 games over the span of three seasons at Tennessee, making appearances at both left guard and left tackle. He was a fifth-year senior in 2020. By transferring, he will take advantage of the NCAA’s decision to give players an additional year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Star linebacker Henry To’o To’o is one four Tennessee players to enter the transfer portal on Wednesday. (Andrew Ferguson/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

While these defections came just after the school fired Pruitt under the cloud of multiple investigations, several other prominent players departed the program beforehand. That includes offensive tackle Wanya Morris, running back Ty Chandler and linebacker Deandre Johnson. All three have already committed to Power Five programs: Morris to Oklahoma, Chandler to North Carolina and Johnson to Miami.

With Pruitt out of the picture, Tennessee brought in former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to serve as the program’s acting head coach while it begins its coaching search. Before a coach can be hired, the school plans to hire a new athletic director to replace Phillip Fulmer.

Fulmer, who hired Pruitt after the attempted hire of Greg Schiano by former AD John Currie went up in flames, said he intends to retire. Fulmer was the head coach at UT from 1992 to 2008.

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