KNOXVILLE-Montori Hughes' disappointing football career at Tennessee has reached its end.
The junior defensive tackle is no longer part of the Volunteers' program, the university confirmed Thursday, though neither UT nor coach Derek Dooley gave an official reason.
A combination of academic troubles and other disciplinary issues likely meant the end for Hughes. The 6-foot-4, 327-pound Murfreesboro native possessed the size and talent to become a key contributor for the Vols, but the former two-star recruit, who was passed up by most other major programs, was never able to take full advantage of that potential.
"I thought there were some unreasonable and unfair expectations on Montori, like there are a lot of high school guys," Dooley said last November. "That's why I don't get caught up in the stars. There's so many things that go into playing to your capacity and being a good player."
Hughes, who came to UT in 2009, played in all 13 games as a freshman but battled through injuries and poor performances last season, when he played in 12 games with five starts. He was suspended for the Vols' regular-season finale against Kentucky for academic reasons and held out of the first two spring practices for violating team rules.
"We have an academic accountability system that they understand, and they know the consequences," Dooley said in November after Hughes' first suspension. "I tell them it's the same old line: 'Everybody can do what they want, everybody's got freedom of choice, but nobody's got freedom of consequence.' At some point, you can't play."
Seven of his 17 tackles in 2010 came in the first two games, before he incurred a stinger and two ankle injuries. Hughes was passed on the depth chart by walk-on Joseph Ayres from McCallie School and left spring practice bracketed with Ayres at one backup spot after Daniel Hood earned a starting spot following a switch from the offensive line.
The four defensive linemen UT signed in its 2011 recruiting class have arrived on campus for summer school and workouts, including junior college defensive tackle Maurice Couch. The 6-2, 290-pound Couch is expected to compete for a starting spot alongside Malik Jackson and provide immediate help to the Vols' thin front line.
"Everybody who plays defensive tackle," Dooley said after a March practice, "it's important that they develop, because we don't really have anything close to what we need."