Tennessee football players met Tuesday night to get a back-to-school greeting from coach Butch Jones before starting classes for the new semester today.
In addition to the seniors who played their last snap last November, at least six other players won't be back.
Juniors Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are leaving early for a shot at the NFL, and three young players who ran into disciplinary or academic trouble as true freshmen in 2012 also won't return.
Defensive linemen Trent Taylor and Omari Phillips and defensive back Deion Bonner won't be part of the program moving forward, according to UT spokesperson Jimmy Stanton.
Phillips and Taylor both stopped attending practices last year to focus on academics, then-coach Derek Dooley said at the time. Bonner was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules in November. Taylor and Phillips are listed as inactive students in the university directory. Bonner is still listed as an enrolled student, but if he returns to UT, it won't be as a member of the football team.
Phillips originally signed with Florida but was not admitted to the school and signed with Tennessee in the summer. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound defensive tackle from Venice, Fla., was ranked a four-star prospect by every major recruiting service.
He played in only one game in 2012, and there were signs that he was displeased, even before he left the team. He tweeted early in the season: "having regrets and knowing that your first decision was the best decision is probably the hardest thing to deal with #FLORIDA."
In April of 2011, Bonner and two teammates from Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., were arrested by University of Georgia police for stealing iPods and iPhones from the lockers of seven Georgia football players during a recruiting visit. Bonner, an all-state player who was rated a three-star prospect by 247 Sports, saw his recruiting stock plummet after the arrest, but Dooley didn't pull his scholarship offer, saying he deserved a second chance.
Bonner was listed as a suspect in a campus cellphone theft last October, but after an investigation UT police said no charges would be filed and that the alleged victim did not wish to pursue the case.
The departure of the three players leaves Tennessee with an unofficial tally of 62 returning scholarship players.
However five new prospects were scheduled to enroll early to attend classes this semester. That group includes Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Paul Harris, Lemond Johnson, Corey Vereen and junior college transfer Riyahd Jones.
Vereen and Reeves-Maybin are already listed in the UT directory. Jones has tweeted about his arrival in Knoxville.
Brissett Unlikely for Vols: Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett will select his new school in a few days, but it doesn't appear Tennessee is an option.
Brissett announced this week that he was transferring after two seasons at Florida, where he was a backup to starter Jeff Driskel.
Jack Daniels, who coached Brissett at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., said North Carolina State, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisville were among the schools the quarterback might consider.
Daniels said over the weekend that Tennessee had expressed interest in Brissett, but Daniels told the News Sentinel that it's unlikely Brissett would end up at Tennessee.
Daniels said he spoke with UT receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni about prospects Tuesday morning and Brissett's name never came up. He said Brissett has no plans to visit Knoxville.
The Vols have only two scholarship quarterbacks on the current roster, but they will gain true freshman Riley Ferguson this summer and could add another.
Brissett, a consensus four-star prospect in the 2011 signing class, won't be eligible to play until 2014.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.