KNOXVILLE - Tennessee freshman cornerback Deion Bonner is named as a suspect in the campus theft of a cell phone earlier this week.
As of Friday evening, Bonner has neither been arrested nor does he face any charges, but the investigation remains ongoing.
Tennessee officials did not immediately return calls from the Times Free Press for comment.
According to a University of Tennessee Police Department report filed Wednesday evening, Bonner is alleged to have stolen a cell phone valued at less than $500 from a room inside the Health and Physical Education Building (HPER) on Tennessee's campus earlier Wednesday.
It isn't Bonner's first incident with theft. The Columbus, Ga., native was arrested in April 2011 for his involvement in the theft of iPods and iPhones valued at nearly $2,000 from the lockers of seven Georgia football players during a campus visit. The 5-foot-11, 178-pounder was charged with one count of theft, and the two others involved were charged with five combined counts.
At the time of that arrest, Bonner had finished his junior season at Carver High School, and his recruiting stock was soaring. According to Rivals, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Miami, South Carolina, Southern California, Tennessee and others all had extended scholarship offers to the four-star prospect. Bonner was suspended for the first eight games of his senior season at Carver, but in the six games he did play, he intercepted nine passes.
He verbally committed to Tennessee during an official visit to campus in January, and Vols coach Derek Dooley defended signing Bonner at his signing day news conference.
"When I say bringing in high character, that doesn't mean I'm never going to bring in guys that have made mistakes," he said. "I can tell you right now, I've made as many mistakes in my life as anybody. I'll put my past record against a lot of guys.
"Deion, we did a lot of diligence on the situation. Deion was incredibly truthful, he was incredibly remorseful and I don't know of a high school player who had to pay the piper more for what they did than what he had to go through. Had an absolute public disparagement.
"Everybody stopped recruiting him, and it was tough. It was incredible the maturity level that he showed. I believe that he can come in and represent Tennessee the right way and learn from his mistakes and be a great example.
"Certainly, it's not the norm but we felt like given the diligence that we did on him and, of course, he's a good football player. Let's don't deny that at a key position. We felt willing to take the risk."
Though he's yet to receive any significant playing time on defense, Bonner has played in seven games mostly on special teams, though he's yet to register a tackle. He and fellow freshman cornerback Daniel Gray have been progressing, and Gray could make his first start against Troy today. The Vols coaches' have given positive reviews to Bonner's abilities.
"Dan is fast … and Deion's a bigger, heavier guy," cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said last week. "They complement each other well, and the future's definitely bright at corner."
Sophomore tight end Cameron Clear was dismissed from the program in May for stealing a computer from a Gibbs Hall dorm room.
The Vols host Troy on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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