Transfer Tracker: Sixth Tennessee player hits portal after Pruitt firing
Tennessee fired head football coach Jeremy Pruitt, two assistant coaches and several recruiting staff members last week as the Vols start to deal with the fallout from alleged recruiting violations. Now, the defections from the school's roster has started as well. Four Tennessee starters officially entered the transfer portal on last week, as did the highest-ranked defensive member of their 2020 class, Keshawn Lawrence. The number grew again on Monday with the addition of former four-star J.J. Peterson. Here's a breakdown of the players that hit the portal, where they might land and their potential impact at the new schools.
Recruiting: Peterson had one of the most dramatic recruitments of any 2018 prospect, eventually committing to the Vols over Alabama once Pruitt was hired at Tennessee.
As a Vol: Peterson arrived late in Knoxville and his career never really got off the ground as he struggled to return to his high school form. Over three seasons, he logged just 78 total snaps, with none coming in 2020. He had 12 career tackles.
Potential landing spots: If Peterson still hopes to salvage his career he will probably be best served to find a Group of Five home. It's tough to project at this point, but perhaps a school like Georgia Southern would be an option.
Farrell's Take: "Peterson was a big time recruit out of high school with solid size and good speed but he hasn’t developed at Tennessee and doesn't have much of a resume. His athleticism might make someone take a chance at him at a higher level but stepping away mid season might raise some eyebrows."
Recruiting: To'oto'o committed to Tennessee over Washington, Alabama and several others on Signing Day in 2019.
As a Vol: To'oto'o made an immediate impact for the Vols, starting in 22 of 23 games he played while recording 140 tackles, including 12.5 for loss. While To'oto'o has been productive from a raw stats perspective, his Pro Football Focus grades were 59.8 in 2019 and 51.7 in 2020, both considered below average.
Potential landing spots: Washington would make sense as would several other West Coast programs, including USC and Cal. But schools like Florida and Texas could also enter the picture. To'oto'o also hasn't totally ruled out returning to the Vols.
Farrell's Take: "To’oto’o has been very solid for the Vols and was an early impact guy and starter who hit the SEC ground running. He can read and diagnose and run plays down and is an easy starter for a high level Power Five team."
Recruiting: The one-time No. 1 overall player in the country, Crouch surprised many when he committed to Tennessee over Clemson and Michigan.
As a Vol: While many through Crouch might be a better running back than linebacker at the next level, he began his career on defense for the Vols and stayed there for both seasons. Crouch appeared in 23 games for the Vols over his two seasons, with 11 starts. During that time, Crouch had 85 tackles, including three for loss, and also carried the ball seven times for nine yards and two touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Crouch's defensive grades were 57.3 (2019) and 56.2 (2020).
Potential landing spots: Several schools should be interested but North Carolina seems to be in prime position to land Crouch. It's worth noting that Crouch's brother, Malik Dunlap, recently transferred from N.C. State to Texas Tech.
Farrell's Take: "Crouch is an outstanding athlete who has shown power and explosion and made some huge plays. He still needs some refinement and discipline in his game but his athleticism is unquestioned and he will be attractive at the Power Five level."
Recruiting: Gray initially committed to Michigan but later landed at Tennessee following Pruitt's hiring.
As a Vol: Gray has shown flashes of brilliance during his two years with the Vols, rushing for 1,311 yards and eight touchdowns, while also catching 43 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Gray was Tennessee's highest-graded offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus, logging a 77.8 grade that would have been even higher if not for his struggles as a pass protector.
Potential landing spots: The Memphis native should have no shortage of options, with Auburn being rumored as an early favorite.
Farrell's Take: "Gray has a ton of talent and excellent burst and could end up as a starter in the SEC with his resume. He carried the offense at certain points of the season despite being game planned and a ton of guys in the box. He has Power Five speed."
Recruiting: Johnson committed to Tennessee over USC, Missouri and Arkansas.
As a Vol: Johnson has been a very important cog on the Vols offensive line over the past three seasons, playing in 24 games and making 17 starts while logging nearly 1,000 snaps. After being one of the Vols highest-graded offensive linemen in 2019 (72.5 grade), Johnson struggled in 2020, especially as a pass blocker and his grade dipped all the way down to 44.9.
Potential landing spots: Johnson will have no shortage of suitors as offensive linemen with his type of starting experience at at a premium in the portal.
Farrell's Take: "Johnson was the forgotten man along the Vols offensive line but has been steady and versatile and is clearly a Power Five starter for someone. At times he’s been more consistent than many bigger names."
PLAYERS WITH NEW HOMES
KESHAWN LAWRENCE -- OKLAHOMA
Recruiting: Lawrence committed to Tennessee over Oklahoma, South Carolina and several others in the summer prior to his senior year. He was the highest-ranked defensive signee in Tennessee's class.
As a Vol: Lawrence was mostly a reserve for the Vols in 2020, playing in six games and logging 105 total snaps, with his playing time increasing at the end of the season. In his limited time, Lawrence was one of the highest-graded defensive players on Tennessee's roster, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished the season with eight tackles. Lawrence entered the portal and quickly landed at Oklahoma after Pruitt's firing.
Farrell's Take: "Lawrence is a very good pickup for a Sooners defense that has improved a lot. You won’t find a more confident defensive back and he works hard to live up to that swagger. He has a chance to be an All Big 12 caliber player if he continues to progress."
WANYA MORRIS -- OKLAHOMA
Recruiting: Morris committed to Tennessee over Auburn and others, one of the biggest early recruiting wins in the Jeremy Pruitt era.
As a Vol: Morris was thrown into the fire right away for the Vols and had his share of ups and downs, logging 643 total snaps as a true freshman but also grading out among the nation's lowest-graded pass blocking tackles according to Pro Football Focus. He made a lot of strides in 2020, playing 398 total snaps, but he also fell out of favor with the coaching staff late in the year and actually logged time as a blocking tight end. Morris actually entered the portal prior to Pruitt's firing and announced his plans to transfer to Oklahoma shortly thereafter.
Farrell's Take: “Morris has been an experienced starter since the beginning and was coveted by a ton of schools. It came down to Texas A&M and Oklahoma and this is a huge Sooners win and a kid that could impact the national title picture next season.”