Bryce Brown left the University of Tennessee football program this week, skipping out of town infinitely more quietly than how he arrived 16 months ago as the nation’s top-ranked high school football player.
After allegedly skipping a slew of meetings with new Volunteers coach Derek Dooley, Brown left the program with an electronic message that spoke volumes about the confused sophomore.
Practice starts Wednesday in Knoxville, and there are already enough distractions swirling around Dooley’s program that could sidetrack even the most experienced of teams.
After the Bar Knoxville brawl, the futures of the Vols’ top two defensive tackles — Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls — are uncertain. Disciplinary action has been handed down to three potential starters, with suspensions for Walls and linebacker Greg King and a dismissal for safety Darren Myles. Receiver Da’Rick Rogers, the team’s top incoming playmaker, was arrested in the incident, and there still could be more players in the doghouse or jailhouse as more details become known.
And that’s without the self-serving soap opera that Brown has perpetuated. Seriously, even if he had every intention of leaving as soon as Lane Kiffin started packing, was it too much to expect him to speak to a Tennessee coach face-to-face? UT meant so much to Brown that a tweet or a text or a testy e-mail was enough? Really?
Simply put, the Vols program is far better off without Brown’s headaches even if the team is worse without Brown’s skills.
He would have been a plus on an offense that will be in search of points all season, but this Tennessee team has some depth at running back. And while the offense will be a work in progress throughout the fall, the difference between respectable and disastrous in the weeks and months ahead ultimately will be determined more by the reactions in the locker room than the results on the field.
Like a big chunk of the Vols Nation, Brown was left in a tough spot when Kiffin bolted. Brown came to Knoxville more because of the former UT coach than UT itself. It happens everywhere across college football when coaches leave, and it’s a sympathetic dilemma for the players recruited by the previous regime. Transfers are commonplace after transfers of power at power programs. It’s expected and excusable when it is handled directly and openly.
But Brown’s prolonged walk-a-pout that included a spring practice sit-in and a deafening silence in all directions was a telling sign. He figured to be one of the team’s best players, which among college teams would have made him a leader by default. His erratic actions since Kiffin’s defection leave obvious answers to Brown’s ability to stand strong amid difficult times.
And there figure to be a slew of difficult days to come for these Vols.
Massive questions on the offensive line, at defensive tackle and at quarteback are not the preseason prescription for SEC success. Championships appear beyond this Vols team’s reach, but success is measured in a variety of ways.
And for these Vols to manage any level of that success, handling adversity will be a valuable commodity, every bit as important as carrying the football.
While Brown had such promise in regard to the latter, it’s obvious how he did the former.
E-mail Jay Greeson and firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...