Running back Bryce Brown has left the University of Tennessee without leaving any closure behind.
“Bryce left town without a face-to-face request (with UT football coach Derek Dooley) for a transfer,” a school official told the News Sentinel on Tuesday evening. “There’s still no news on where he wants to go.”
There has been considerable speculation that the consensus high school All-American running back from Wichita would transfer to Kansas State, where his older brother is now enrolled.
Brown, who was the No. 1 attraction in former UT coach Lane Kiffin’s 2009 recruiting class, didn’t take part in spring practice following Kiffin’s departure for the head-coaching job at Southern California and wasn’t expected to rejoin the team. But there was just enough doubt to make for an ongoing story.
The story continued Tuesday. Dooley addressed it at a local Rotary Club luncheon.
“I said (earlier) that I was open to Bryce coming back on the condition that he wanted to unpack his bags and put his heart into this program,” Dooley said. “I fully expect Bryce not to be on our team.
“The reason it has continued on is because Bryce has not come to me, looked me in the eye and said I want a release to so-and-so school. At some point, that’s got to happen.”
It still hasn’t happened.
“Everybody is worried about (Brown’s status) except me,” Dooley told the Rotarians. “I view him as not on our team.”
Like his departure, Brown’s arrival at UT was accompanied by controversy — thanks, in part, to his relationship with Brian Butler, who identified himself as Brown’s manager and trainer and charged for updates on Brown’s recruiting on a web site. Their relationship was the target of an NCAA investigation to determine whether Brown had jeopardized his amateur status.
Rivals.com ranked Brown as the No. 1 player in the country after he rushed for 1,872 yards and scored 30 touchdowns as a senior at Wichita East High School. He committed to Miami, where his brother, Arthur, was on a football scholarship, but later changed his mind.
UT wasn’t on Brown’s radar until Kiffin replaced Phillip Fulmer as head coach. Even then, the Vols were a long shot.
But in mid-March 2009, more than a month after signing date, Brown announced he would sign with UT.
After joining the Vols amidst much fanfare, Brown suffered a mild concussion and hip injury during preseason practice last year. But an outstanding performance in UT’s final scrimmage provided compelling evidence that he would be a major factor in the offense.
Instead, Brown had to settle for a backup role behind senior Montario Hardesty, who rushed for 1,345 yards. Brown finished his freshman season with 460 yards rushing and 10 pass receptions for 137 yards.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.