Banks closes early on his adventurous career with the Vols

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee fifth-year senior linebacker Jeremy Banks provides some instruction during the 56-0 win at Vanderbilt on Nov. 26, which wound up being his final game with the Volunteers.

There have been productive times and tumultuous times for Jeremy Banks at Tennessee, but those times are over.

The fifth-year senior linebacker from the Memphis suburb of Cordova announced late Christmas Eve on social media that he would be opting out of Friday night's Orange Bowl between the No. 6 Volunteers and No. 7 Clemson. Banks began his career under Jeremy Pruitt and has finished it under Josh Heupel, compiling 219 tackles and 18 tackles for loss.

"It has been a true honor to join my brothers in battle at Neyland Stadium, while playing for the best fans in college football," Banks posted on Twitter. "I would like to thank Coach Heupel and Coach Pruitt, along with their respective staff members, who have taught and led me throughout my time at the University of Tennessee. Thank you for making these past five years some of the best moments of my life.

"After many prayers, I have decided to begin preparing for the 2023 NFL draft and will forego the upcoming Orange Bowl."

Tennessee arrived in Florida late Christmas afternoon and will resume practicing for the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Tigers on Monday at Barry University.

Banks racked up 128 tackles in 13 games last season from the weakside linebacker spot, which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference and tied for seventh nationally. The 6-foot-1, 224-pounder culminated his stellar year with 20 tackles in the Music City Bowl loss to Purdue, which tied a program record for a postseason game.

A three-star running back on the composite rankings in 2018, Banks played on offense as a Tennessee freshman, collecting 52 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He was moved to linebacker before the 2019 season and immediately showed promise, tallying a tackle for loss in the Georgia State opener and two interceptions in the third game against UTC.

Banks played the first four contests of 2019 but was then abruptly dismissed from the team after a video surfaced of him being arrested and telling a University of Tennessee police officer, "Where I'm from, we shoot at cops." There had been an active warrant for Banks due to his failure to appear in court following a charge of driving with a suspended license.

After apologizing for his actions, Banks remained as a Tennessee student and was given a second chance by Pruitt before the 2020 season, which would consist of 28 tackles in nine appearances in the shortened, 10-game schedule amid the coronavirus outbreak.

His final season in Knoxville contained 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one notable absence on Nov. 19, when Banks did not make the trip for the humiliating 63-38 defeat at South Carolina. The Vols surrendered 606 yards and 35 first downs to the Gamecocks, who converted a staggering 10-of-13 opportunities on third and fourth down.

Speculation emerged that Banks got into an altercation with quarterback Hendon Hooker several days before that game, but Banks posted on Instagram, "Wasn't about no conflict. Coming back harder than ever."

When Heupel was asked about what led to the absence of Banks in Columbia, he said, "As far as what transpired and those type of things, at the end of the day, he wasn't available."

Banks wound up playing 48 games for the Vols, with his finale being the 56-0 win at Vanderbilt on Nov. 26. He was never made available to the media throughout his five seasons, and second-year defensive coordinator Tim Banks was asked just last week whether Banks has been the emotional leader of his unit.

"Jeremy is obviously a talented player, but I don't think I can stand here and say that one guy is the difference between winning and losing," Banks said. "Obviously, he has done a lot of good things for this university in terms of his play on the field, and we love it when he's out there."

The Vols are now without Banks and receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman for the Orange Bowl as a result of opt-out decisions.

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