KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is losing a trio of freshmen from its football program.
Tight end Daniel Helm joined tailback Derrell Scott and defensive end Dewayne Hendrix as the practice absentees when the Volunteers resumed preparations for the Jan. 2 Taxslayer Bowl on Sunday afternoon at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex, and coach Butch Jones said after practice all three were transferring.
"Daniel's decided that he's going to go to another school, and we wish him the best," he said. "We'll help in anyway we can.
"Dewayne Hendrix and Derrell Scott will also be looking at other schools. We thank them for everything they've given to Tennessee. We wish them the best in moving forward."
The attrition from the class may not be done, as defensive tackle Michael Sawyers missed practice after Jones said in a radio interview on Friday he would be at practice.
Scott and Hendrix were absent from Tennessee's practices last weekend, while Helm practiced both times.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder from Illinois played in all 12 games this season with starts against Oklahoma and Kentucky and caught six passes for 37 yards. He also hauled in a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of the loss at Georgia.
He was a consensus four-star recruit and ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 tight end in the 2014 class.
The Vols used a committee at tight end this season, and fellow freshman Ethan Wolf and walk-on Alex Ellis each had more receiving yards than Helm. Tennessee also has A.J. Branisel, who redshirted this season after tearing his ACL last November, and converted linebacker Neiko Creamer in the mix at a position that will lose senior Brendan Downs.
Kyle Oliver, out of Murfreesboro's Oakland High School, is the lone tight end commitment in Tennessee's 2015 class.
With the trio of departures, the Vols already have lost five players from their touted 2014 signing class.
"Every individual has a different reason, a different circumstance for that," Jones said. "but the only thing we can do is thank them and help them and provide help with finding another school and whatever they wish to do."
His selection to the SEC's All-Freshman team meant plenty to Tennessee offensive lineman Jashon Robertson, who started every game at right guard after starting preseason training camp at defensive tackle.
"It was a blessing," he said, "to be a part of the team with a lot of other talented guys on the list."
The 6-foot-3, 304-pounder from Nashville was the first Tennessee offensive linemen on the All-SEC freshman team since Ja'Wuan James did it after starting every game at right tackle in 2010.
Robertson, James, Michael Munoz (2000) and Bill Mayo (1981) are the only true freshmen offensive linemen to ever start a season opener on the offensive line.
The time off since the regular season ended three weeks ago has given Robertson time to reflect on his first season.
"Me and the boys, in the time off, we've talked a lot about a lot of different experiences, whether it's 'Bama, Florida, South Carolina -- just the different games and different things that went on and the types of things we learned from them," he said.
"It's been a good experience and a great ride. We can't wait to be a part of this bowl game and have fun doing what we do."
Robertson said the biggest thing he's learned as a freshman starting offensive lineman in the SEC is how big a difference the small details can make.
"The margin of error is very small, as far as hand placement, feet, body language and the way you use your body," he said. "It's a small margin of error between things. In that case you've got to work on the details and get all of that stuff figured. That's what I've really learned as an offensive lineman."
Tennessee sent freshman safety Evan Berry, who also handles kickoff returns for the Vols, to work with Robert Gillespie and the running backs during Sunday's practice.
The Vols experimented with the similar position switch during the season, and the departure of Scott and absence of walk-on Justus Pickett, who got 22 carries this season, has sapped the depth from an already-thin group that just got Devrin Young back last week.
"Evan did play running back in high school," Jones said. "The great thing about bowl practices is you take the first couple of bowl practices, and if there's individuals you want to see play different positions, it's a great time to get a jumpstart on spring football.
"Evan Berry's done a tremendous job. He's making great strides at safety, but it was an opportunity today to see what he could really do with the ball in his hands."