Photo by Jaime Oppenheimer/The Wichita Ea
Like just about everybody else, Luke Stocker has no clue how the Bryce Brown Saga will end.
All the Tennessee tight end can be sure of is what exactly has been missing from the story.
By just about every account, Brown, the former No. 1 recruit in the country, would be welcomed back by the Vols should he decide to return - and a verdict could be out as early as Monday. But if Brown does rejoin the team, he'll do so without the benefit of spring practice, a summer of sprints up Locust Street or the brutal workouts from strength coach Bennie Wylie that have chiseled the Vols.
"I mean, you could go (into the season without it)," Stocker said. "But you're not going to be where we're at.
"We've been through a lot, and I don't know what Bryce has been doing back home as far as staying in shape and stuff, but if he comes back, he's going to be a little behind."
That begs the question of whether Brown might be better suited sitting out a season whether he transfers or not, though it would seem unlikely given his role as a true freshman a year ago that UT would hold him out all year.
Based on comments from coach Derek Dooley at SEC media days on Friday, the expected outcome from a looming meeting with Brown still seems to be him asking for a release. But as has been the case for months, nobody is entirely sure what's going on with the running back, including the teammates who would be signing off on his return.
"I heard he was coming to town, then I heard he wasn't coming to town, then somebody told me he was in town," Stocker said. "This is all going like a riddle. Who knows what Bryce Brown is going to do next? I hope Bryce makes the best decision for himself and his family. If he comes back, he'll be welcomed back.
"Bryce has missed a lot, and he'll have to earn his stripes back. Like I said, when he gets back, he'll be welcomed back as long as he puts forth the effort to be a good teammate."
If Brown chooses a different option and presumably heads to Kansas State, the UT roster won't really be in any worse shape since it hasn't included him in months.
And in terms of physical shape, Wylie has taken care of that part and helped the Vols forge strong personal bonds in the process. Brown can't get that back, but UT doesn't appear opposed to letting him try to catch up.
"I mean, we're a family," Stocker said. "(Dooley) doesn't make decisions without talking to the family. A family doesn't go buy a house without talking to everybody about it.
"He definitely doesn't want to mess up the chemistry as a team, he knows how close we are as a team and how much we've built through this offseason. He doesn't want to bring someone in that we feel like is going to mess up the chemistry."
For now, that experiment still isn't necessary. All Stocker and the Vols have to worry about is making it one more week with Wylie.