Derek Dooley on mid-year attrition for the Vols
Derek Dooley called the SEC-mandated maximum of 25 players per signing class a "moving target."
For Tennessee heading into the 2012 season, the same can be said for the NCAA-mandated maximum of 85 players on scholarship.
Citing various reasons that Dooley declined to discuss specifically Friday, a number of Vols are no longer with the program.
Along with wide receivers DeAnthony Arnett and Matt Milton, whose respective transfers were already reported, linebacker Robert Nelson, defensive tackle Arthur Jeffery, quarterback Nash Nance and linebacker Martaze Jackson are off the team, Dooley said. Offensive lineman JerQuari Schofield is still in school, but not currently part of the team because of academic issues.
The latest dose of anticipated attrition gives the Vols more freedom to stock up their 2012 signing class without having heavy anxiety about a potential numbers crunch over the summer.
"Some of it is family, some of it academic pursuits, some of it opportunity to play at other places. We wish them well," Dooley said at a Neyland Stadium news conference. "We support them. We never like anybody to leave our program, but sometimes it's in their best interest and it's a good mutual parting of ways.
"We move on."
Among the departed players, only Arnett, who transferred to Michigan State, was a significant contributor.
Jackson and Jeffery each saw the field once this season in UT's homecoming victory over Middle Tennessee State. Neither Nelson, who along with Milton, cornerback C.J. Fleming and walk-on Nick Branum, nor Nance played a down in 2011.
Milton caught one pass for 12 yards in two years with the Vols.
Branum, a former wide receiver/cornerback at Catholic, is no longer with the team.
Schofield, who started five games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, lost a preseason battle for the opening at left guard and saw the field for just two games in 2011.
With Friday's commitment from Georgia Military College defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, the Vols' 2012 class stands at 19. Counting cornerback Tino Thomas, who grayshirted the 2011 season and enrolled earlier this week, the Vols have room for five more commitments.
Health Report: Safety Brent Brewer and wide receiver Justin Hunter, both of whom respectively tore an anterior cruciate ligament in one of their knees during the 2011 season, received glowing status updates from Dooley.
Brewer, Dooley said, is "eight weeks out" from surgery, off his crutches and "doing great." Brewer is not anticipated to be ready for spring football.
Hunter, meanwhile, is running, Dooley said. When Hunter underwent surgery last September, UT announced that he should be available for spring football.
"He is right on track and doing great," Dooley said.
Center Alex Bullard, defensive end Marlon Walls, defensive tackle Allan Carson and linebacker Greg King continue to be on track to return for spring football after their respective, offseason knee surgeries, Dooley said.
Nothing has changed with the status of linebacker Curt Maggitt, defensive back Prentiss Waggner and defensive tackle Daniel Hood. All three players will be limited this spring because of their respective offseason shoulder surgeries.
"They are in slings and will be in slings for a little while," Dooley said. "They are going to be non-contact in the spring, which obviously for Dan Hood, there is not much more you can do. For a guy like Prentiss, you can probably do a lot because of the position."
Linebacker Herman Lathers, who missed all of the 2011 season because of a broken ankle, is "doing good" and is "full go," Dooley said.
Meet and Greet: The Vols have met twice as a team since the beginning of spring semester, Dooley said.
The Vols' winter conditioning program — which will be tweaked to add a "little competitive component," Dooley said — begins Tuesday.
"The kids came back Wednesday with just a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm," Dooley said. "I told them, like I said a week ago, I am as excited as I have ever been about an offseason."
Carolina Connection: Dooley's three new assistants — defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, running backs coach Jay Graham and offensive line coach Sam Pittman — could all contribute to a UT recruiting renaissance in North Carolina.
Graham grew up in the state and recruited it heavily during his time at South Carolina. Pittman's last coaching stop was at the University of North Carolina, where he spent the previous five years. Sunseri worked with the NFL's Carolina Panthers from 2002-08.
The Vols have not signed a player from North Carolina since 2008, when it brought in linebacker Austin Johnson and E.J. Abrams-Ward.
"We haven't done as good of a job as we probably could have," Dooley said. "We've done a good job in some areas and haven't done as good a job in others, but certainly given how close it is and the history of the great players from those states, yeah, we need to do a little better job in there."