Shortly after the first significant shakeup of his coaching staff became official, Derek Dooley was hit with one to his roster.
The Tennessee coach will be without the player widely considered to be his best heading into spring practice, and there’s no timetable for a return.
After parting ways with defensive line coach Chuck Smith on Sunday, safety Janzen Jackson withdrew from school Monday to continuing dealing with the personal problems that forced him to miss workouts in December before the Music City Bowl.
His decision to leave school rules him out of team functions this semester and leaves his status with UT unclear heading into what would be his junior season.
“Janzen continues to battle personal issues of which our program is always going to be very supportive of,” Dooley said. “His withdrawal from school has nothing to do with disciplinary reasons on the football team and everything to do with a continuing battle of deep personal issues, of which we’re very supportive of.”
Jackson will have to handle them all away from team activities for at least the rest of this spring, though he could conceivably return by fall practice if his issues are taken care of even without passing credits this spring due to a one-time missed-semester NCAA waiver.
Dooley’s roster heading into spring practice next month also became clearer with the announced departures of sophomore defensive back Ted Meline, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jerod Askew and senior offensive lineman Cody Pope.
Meline withdrew from school as well for personal reasons, Askew was dismissed for violation of team rules and Pope appears headed for a medical exemption for his lingering stinger issue and is also no longer a part of the program.
As he did throughout bowl preparation, Dooley refused to provide any details on Jackson’s personal matter or address the likelihood of Jackson returning to the program — aside from reiterating his support for the second-team All-SEC performer.
Jackson has had some previous trouble during his career with the Vols, including a high-profile incident in November 2009 with a pair of former teammates in an alleged attempted armed robbery in which charges against him were dropped.
Jackson also had an additional suspension for violation of team rules handed down during his freshman season, but he earned nothing but positive reviews from Dooley throughout his sophomore campaign and his absence leading up to the bowl game.
“His leaving for bowl practice was not a punishment, and as long as he continues to manage his personal issues and football and school, he’s going to be welcomed back in the program,” Dooley said. “He’s clearly reached a point where the personal issues have become much greater than his ability to manage workouts and school.
“Until he gets a little clarity on those issues, we’re going to support him.”
The Vols did have one other issue cleared up in the secondary with the suspension of Art Evans being lifted.
The senior cornerback missed the last five games of the season dealing with problems tied to late car payments, but those appear to have been addressed and he has been given permission to return to offseason workouts with UT and will be available for spring practice.
“Art Evans has had his suspension lifted, so he’s working out with the team,” Dooley said. “He cleaned up his compliance concerns, and he’s been reinstated, approved and ready to go.”
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward