Joseph on the Vols' defensive backs
The first option bolted for the NFL.
The second has been held out of contact drills all spring after shoulder surgery.
But even without a combination that would have been both seasoned and talented enough to thrive for a more aggressive Tennessee secondary, Terry Joseph isn't exactly working with an empty cupboard.
Dennis Rogan may have left early and Art Evans might be missing some valuable practice time, but cornerback appears to be one area where the Vols don't have to stress out too much right now.
"I don't think we have a lockdown guy right now, but I think we have a good group of guys that are going to be pretty productive on Saturdays," Joseph said. "And competition always helps make the group better. If a guy goes down, the next guy needs to step up, take his reps and make us better as a group.
"We're going to keep competing and pushing each other every day."
Ideally the Vols would be doing that with Rogan and Evans, then trying to develop some depth behind them.
But if nothing else, the absence of both has provided an early opportunity for a couple of freshmen to try to slide into those spots, and Eric Gordon and Nyshier Oliver are making a strong case for them so far.
"Two guys coming off a redshirt season, they just need to get snaps, get snaps, they'll get better and better," Joseph said. "Eric's one of the guys who is really excited to have a clean slate, and he's been doing well. He's coming along at a nice pace right now, so we're excited about him.
"Every day is a learning process for him, and as he continues to mature, he's going to understand it takes more than ability to get on the football field."
Natural talent is a great place to start though, and both Gordon and Oliver have plenty of that. They've also drawn praise from the coaching staff for playing with a lot of energy and excitement, which also isn't something that can really be coached.
The next step is soaking in things like adjusting to another new scheme early in their careers, figuring out their roles in coverage and continuing to adapt to the speed of the game at the college level after going a year without playing a game. Then, when that's paired with the athleticism, the two could be hard to get off the field even with Evans back in the mix.
"They go through a lot of the same things as the offensive guys do," coach Derek Dooley said. "You're having to learn new coverages, then you're having to defend the different patterns, so you're matching patterns, and if you're not playing fast and quick, you're going to get beat.
"But it's the same deal, just like we evaluate quarterbacks - 'What can the corner do, what techniques does he do well, what causes struggles with him?' "
The Vols aren't even close to finding final answers for all those questions, but the early responses have been encouraging.
Oliver and Gordon seem to have stepped to the front of the line. Anthony Anderson or C.J. Fleming might emerge to provide some help as well. And in a system that needs a deep core of defensive backs to stop the run and pass alike, they could all wind up being a factor.
"Being a football player, you need to be aggressive, and cornerback is no different," Joseph said. "A lockdown, cover corner is probably not going to fare well in the SEC tackling those big backs from Alabama and the other schools.
"You need to be physical and show that you're not going to shy away from contact - that's going to help you get on the field."
Injuries and an early departure may have helped get them there. But either way, now it's up to Oliver and Gordon to make a case to stay.