By: Zack Troutt
Junior Writer, Content Creator
All Vol Call In Show
In the most up-to-date College Football Playoff poll, Tennessee sits at No.5 and has a real shot at making the playoffs once the regular season has concluded. You have to give Josh Heupel and his coaching staff all the credit because they weren’t left with the fullest of cupboards that some successful coaches have inherited in the past. 47 players have transferred away from the Vols since 2020. Most of these players transferred after the Jeremy Pruitt recruiting allegations, but some did leave after the 2021 season.
This had me thinking; how have these players fared at their new teams and how would things be different if some of the notable players would have stayed at Tennessee? First of all, I believe most of the highly ranked and best players were more or less forced to transfer due to the allegations placed on the football program. Not to speculate, but I believe these were some of the athletes that were, let's just say, enjoying Big Macs with extra cheese. Let’s look into some of these players and how they are doing at their new schools.
Beckwith could have been something special at Tennessee, but he never developed into the “next Derrick Henry” type of player everyone thought he would be. Beckwith transferred from Tennessee in June of 2022 and is a big-bodied, 6’5” 230 pound running back/wide receiver that is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He now plays at Kentucky where he is listed as a wide receiver, but in his three appearances this season he has primarily run the ball. Beckwith is still young and could be a really good player for the Wildcats next season.
When I think of players that could have made a huge impact at Tennessee if they would have stayed, Tiyon Evans is the first that comes to mind. This guy was a certified stud in the backfield for the Vols. I still dream about his performance at Missouri. He had a couple of injuries that kept him off the field, but in seven games he averaged 6.5-yards a carry, 7-total touchdowns, and 599-yards from scrimmage. He transferred to Louisville in December of 2021 and has matched his average yards per carry and has 6-total touchdowns in seven games. If he can stay healthy, I believe we will hear his name on Sundays.
Key Lawrence, Eric Gray, and Wanya Morris:
I put these three players together because they all transferred to the same school: Oklahoma. All three stars announced their transfer destination around the same time. This led to the belief that Oklahoma was poaching Tennessee’s top talent after the news of the Vols’ recruiting allegations. This, of course, was hard to prove but the speculations were talked about. All three are starters for the Sooners and have performed exceptionally well even in the program's worst years in recent history. Gray (running back) leads the team in rushing, Lawrence(safety) forced turnovers, and Morris is the starting right tackle. Would Tennessee be better with the three still on the team? There is no real way to tell, but what I do know is Tennessee is fighting for a playoff spot; Oklahoma is fighting to be bowl eligible.
Henry To’o To’o
Do you want to know how to go from one of the most beloved players to one of the most hated in one season at Tennessee? You transfer to Alabama and that’s exactly what Henry To’o To’o did in May of 2021. Don’t get me wrong, I believe he is one of the best middle linebackers in the country, but one does not trade orange for crimson without repercussions. To’o To’o’s decision to transfer to Bama didn’t catch anyone off guard. The Tide recruited him hard out of high school and was one of his favorite teams growing up as a child. He leads the Tide in tackles in his first year with the team and is in second this season behind Demarcco Hellams. Even though he would have been a great linebacker at Tennessee I believe Jeremy Banks is equally as talented. To’o To’o will play on Sundays for a long time, and I wish him the best, but every time I see him get trucked or miss a coverage assignment I’ll sit back and smile.
So many other players who have transferred over the past couple of years that could have made an impact on this current team, and I wish them the very best in their future careers. Would the 2022 season be even better if these players would have stayed? Possibly, but there is no way to know for sure. Let’s not dwell on what could have been and let us cherish what is. The 2022 team will go down as one if not the best Tennessee teams since 1998 and I’m going to enjoy the ride for another month or so.