Kiffin: Morley no longer a Vol
News of Tennessee senior safety Demetrice Morley's dismissal on Tuesday afternoon took some by surprise.
Others, including cornerback C.J. Fleming, saw it coming.
"It seems like they just kind of like prolonged it," Fleming said. "Everybody kind of knew it was coming."
After missing his fourth practice of the spring, UT coach Lane Kiffin announced that Morley, a highly touted recruit from Miami and a two-year starter, was no longer a member of UT's football team.
"Like we said a long time ago from the beginning, this isn't easy," Kiffin said. "It's very demanding for guys to stay here and go through everything we do and to hold our standards on and off the field that we expect to be part of our culture. Demetrice could not do that, and we wish him the best of luck."
Morley's dismissal comes after plenty of chances.
According to Fleming, who counts Morley as one of his "better friends," Morley had missed several offseason workouts and had turned a clean slate with UT's new coaching staff into an extended stay in the doghouse.
"Probably a couple months ago," Fleming said when asked when he had an inkling that Morley's UT future could be in trouble. "He missed a lot of team runs, and then he was suspended indefinitely for a while. That's when I kind of figured it out. Him and (defensive line coach) coach (Ed) Orgeron never really got together. It was always kind of a big thing with them two."
Junior Eric Berry, who earned All-America honors in his only season playing alongside Morley, first learned of the dismissal when asked by the media following Tuesday's workout in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
"He's done a lot for us for the past year," Berry said. "It's tough to say, but we've got to move on."
Highlights on the field - combined with struggles off it - defined Morley's UT career.
During three seasons with the Vols, he started 20 games. He was suspended for all or part of three games, including two last season.
In January 2007, Morley was not allowed to re-enroll after falling below UT's required 2.0 grade point average. He attended Pellissippi State Technical Community College - and paid his own way by waiting tables - before being readmitted to UT in January 2008.
Then, three days after Kiffin's introduction as head coach, news of a 2007 arrest on charges of strong-armed robbery on the campus of Florida International University surfaced when Knoxville police detained him on an outstanding warrant mistakenly issued by Miami-Dade County officials after Morley missed a scheduled court appearance in September.
Around the time of his arrest, Morley was living out of his car in Miami before returning to Knoxville. Morley received pretrial intervention for the robbery charge, and UT said he completed his court-mandated 75 hours of community service in May 2008.
Last month, Morley was suspended for the Vols' first spring practice after being late for a team meeting.
Last Tuesday, he did not practice to witness the birth of his child. On Saturday, Morley was again absent, and Kiffin did not disclose the reason.
Morley had plenty of chances to walk the line, said Fleming who started Saturday's scrimmage as a first-team cornerback.
"He's a senior. He's got kids to take care of. This is his second chance back," Fleming said of Morley, who cited the birth of a son in 2007 as a major driving force for returning to UT. "Man, my blessings go out to him. I hope Demetrice straightens his life up, but that's about it."
Kiffin's decision to dismiss Morley sent a message to the team about discipline.
"That gets everybody's attention right away," Fleming said. "Everybody tomorrow is going to be talking about how they put Demetrice off the team. That's Morley. That's our five-star, No. 1 overall DB, and it's down the drain. It's real big that it's D-Mo rather than just being somebody who never really played."
Morley's departure opens the door for several underclassmen this spring and some highly touted recruits this fall.
Stephaun Raines and Rod Wilks got extended work at safety Saturday with Morley gone and Berry prohibited from full contact following offseason shoulder surgery.
Prentiss Waggner and Daryl Vereen could also see increased playing time, while junior Dennis Rogan worked at Morley's old spot Tuesday.
Highly touted safety Darren Myles, who attended Thursday's practice, and athlete Nyshier Oliver will likely get strong looks at safety when they arrive this fall.
And while Morley's departure was tough to take, Fleming didn't have a hard time seeing the silver lining.
"It's probably a better thing for everybody as far as a family thing," he said. "When somebody sees somebody just really doesn't want to show up to practice, doesn't want to come to meetings and still think they can show up and when they get there it's their spot. ... With the new coaches, they wasn't having it. I think it's making everybody stronger."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.