Tennessee running back Quenshaun Watson, who played sparingly as a true freshman in 2012, has left the team and returned home as he deals with personal and family issues.
Leroy Ryals, who coached Watson at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga., said his former player is "dealing with some things with his family right now."
Watson could still return to the Vols, although classes started on Wednesday and every day that he misses makes his return more challenging.
"I don't know what the outcome is going to be," Ryals said. "We're communicating now to try to work things out."
Ryals said he had not yet spoken to new Tennessee coach Butch Jones about the matter.
Watson has tweeted regularly in the last several days, but has not addressed his status with the team or replied to fans questioning him about his future. Sophomore offensive lineman Alan Posey, who played high school football with Watson, tweeted late Friday: "Guess I'm the lone Gladiator on Rocky Top now." Clarke Central's nickname is the Gladiators.
A 5-foot-9, 175-pound tailback, Watson was praised by coaches for his performance in camp last August, but he got few carries as the fourth-string running back behind Rajion Neal, Marlin Lane and Devrin Young. Watson played in six games, but was rarely heard from in the second half of the season.
Tennessee has two other scholarship running backs on the roster. Alden Hill redshirted as a true freshman in 2012. Tom Smith, entering his third year with the program, played in three games in 2011 but spent 2012 on the scout team. Tennessee currently has no commitments from running backs in the 2013 signing class.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.