Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin had a brutal birthday message Thursday for junior defensive back Brent Vinson; he has been dismissed from the team.
“We wish him the best of luck,” Kiffin said.
There was no explanation given by UT for Vinson’s dismissal as the Vols resume practice today for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech.
Vinson, 23, received numerous birthday wishes on his Facebook page, but his status report earlier Thursday simply said “everyone thatnk for the bday wishes all my friends”.
Vinson played in nine games this season with 11 tackles, one interception, two passes broken up and a quarterback hurry.
Vinson seemed to put his troubled past behind him this season. Considered one of the best natural athletes on the team, Vinson had no public transgressions under Kiffin’s regime, but did have a couple of close calls.
The most serious came in May when Vinson was questioned by police in connection with a shooting at a South Knoxville apartment complex.
The Knoxville Police Department later called Vinson “just a witness”. Former UT basketball player Ramar Smith was arrested and faces charges of aggravated robbery.
Another close call came in January when Kiffin was settling in as head coach and holding his players to a higher academic standard.
Vinson drew UT’s focus and his performance in the classroom became a story in early January. The News Sentinel reported that Vinson had resolved an academic issue and remained enrolled at UT after a report earlier in the week by WBIR that Vinson had been dismissed from the team.
Vinson’s play, however, didn’t match his relatively improved public persona. In his lone start this season, against Ohio, Vinson looked like a different player than the one that garnered freshman All-SEC honors in 2007. Kiffin would later say it appeared as if Ohio was targeting the cornerback.
Vinson drew the ire of former UT defensive backs coach Larry Slade a year before. After playing in 14 games as a freshman, Vinson played in only eight as a sophomore in 2008.