In the three days since the Vols’ disaster against the Georgia Bulldogs, a few aftershocks have raised alarm among fans. First, backup offensive lineman Venzell Boulware published a Tweet early yesterday afternoon that he was leaving the program:
— VENZELL BOULWARE (@Venzell55) October 2, 2017
Shortly after that, UT wide receiver commit Jatavious Harris announced via Twitter that he’s “now open to all schools,” and that was followed by a similar announcement by 4-star safety Brendon Harris. Silence from Cade Mays, the jewel of the class, is being construed as ominous.
But just how concerned should we actually be about a player leaving the program in the middle of the season and a couple of commits deciding to re-open their recruitment?
Some, certainly. But also, not too much.
Acknowledging the situation
A little shifting and sifting after a loss like the one the Vols endured Saturday is to be expected and shouldn’t be too alarming. There should be no one associated with the program who is not less comfortable today than they were Friday, and when circumstances change, there’s nothing wrong with changing your posture so that you’re ready to react if need be.
I’m not even convinced that Boulware’s announcement was a result of the loss as much as it was a realization of his place in the pecking order of the offensive line. Boulware redshirted his first season on campus and then played in seven games last season, starting three of them, before an academic issue caused him to miss the bowl game. This season, Boulware was involved in a competition with Jack Jones for the starting position at left guard. Jones was ahead of Boulware initially, but Boulware then started against UMass. Against Georgia, the team tried a combination not involving either Jones or Boulware, and when that didn’t work out as hoped, they settled on Jones at left guard. Boulware’s statement was a respectful one, and no further reasons for leaving were given, but a reasonable conclusion is that he simply believes he has better opportunities elsewhere. Best of luck to him.
The announcements of the two recruits are also not alarming, in my opinion, although for different reasons. First of all, Jatavious Harris told GoVols247 that although he’s re-opening his recruitment, he’s actually still committed to the Vols. But even if you consider his and Brendon Harris’ respective announcements as true de-commitments, it really only signals some justified anxiety about the current situation. That anxiety is not only completely understandable, it will almost certainly be resolved in time for the Vols to attempt to secure their re-commitments. If Jones gets things turned around, he’ll have the inside track, and if the front falls off and Jones gets fired, then everyone will presumably love the new guy, and he’ll have an opportunity to re-recruit the class back into the fold.
In addition to that, it’s also important to note that many of the current commits have publicly reaffirmed their commitments to Tennessee:
— Jamarcus Chatman (@ChatmanJamarcus) October 2, 2017
Through thick and thin,Imma ride✊🏽💯🍊 GBO pic.twitter.com/8mpuPD2qvY
— Tanner Antonutti (@TannerAntonutti) October 2, 2017
— JUNGLE BOY (@jayceehorn_10) October 2, 2017
It should be noted that Horn also tweeted yesterday that he was excited to receive an offer from Clemson, so make of that what you will, but these guys could have either followed the lead of the guys re-opening their recruitment or stayed silent, but instead they publicly re-upped.
Add to all of that that stud quarterback commit Adrian Martinez not only publicly reaffirmed, he’s been all over the place (Twitter, radio appearances) actively working to rally the troops.
There’s plenty of time
Things could change, no doubt. But they can change in a lot of ways. They could get better. They could get worse.
But either way, there should be ample time to recover and re-recruit any commits anxious about the future at Tennessee. And that means that it’s too early to panic.