KNOXVILLE — Highly touted safety signee Eddrick Loften from Texas didn’t qualify academically and won’t play for the University of Tennessee football team this season, Coach Derek Dooley confirmed Wednesday night.
Dooley said the 6-foot, 200-pound Loften — the nation’s No. 4 incoming safety prospect according to Rivals.com — will try to enroll at UT as soon as possible.
“There’s still some things he can do to become a qualifier,” Dooley said after the Vols’ gameday dress rehearsal in Neyland Stadium. “He’s still in the limbo stage. We’re going to pass the deadline for coming in the fall, so the best-case for Eddrick is to get here mid-year.”
Dooley still hadn’t heard from the NCAA Clearinghouse regarding freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter’s fate. Hunter qualified and practiced with the team for a few weeks before the NCAA pulled him off the field.
“I swear, man, I thought we’d know something three days ago,” said Dooley, whose frustration on the matter multiplies daily. “I’ve gotten Mike (Hamilton), our athletics director, involved. It’s just getting them to give us an answer. What they told us was they’ve got files of players, and they’re just going file-by-file. And wherever his name is, we’ve got no control over.
“He energized the entire offense, and then we had to put him on the shelf because of the NCAA.”
Dooley didn’t sound like a coach eager to play junior cornerback Stephaun Raines, a former Dalton (Ga.) High School star.
“He hasn’t ... the other guys have just been playing a little better than him right now,” Dooley said. “He’s still got a long way to go.”
Injuries pressed Raines into serious playing time last season against Vanderbilt, and the former Catamount responded with a big, touchdown-saving tackle at the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The Commodores settled for a field goal on that drive, and the Vols ultimately pulled away for a 31-16 win with defensive tackle Wes Brown returned a fumble for a UT touchdown in the closing seconds.
Raines played in 12 games last season, mostly on special teams, and finished with 10 tackles. His season-high was four stops against Vandy.
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