KNOXVILLE -- A little more than two years since becoming the first commitment in Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class, Vic Wharton is on his way out of the Volunteers football program.
Coach Butch Jones confirmed to the Times Free Press on Thursday morning that the receiver has decided to transfer from Tennessee after his freshman season.
"Right now I know he's going to transfer," Jones said. "Vic is going through that process of deciding what is the best fit for him in moving forward."
Wharton, who started two games and caught a touchdown pass in Tennessee's rout of Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, told the Knoxville News Sentinel later Thursday that he already took a visit to California, has one to North Carolina scheduled for this weekend and also hopes to visit Utah.
The 5-foot-11, 201-pounder is the third wide receiver to leave the Vols this offseason. Drae Bowles already enrolled at UT-Chattanooga, and Ryan Jenkins, a rising redshirt sophomore, announced two weeks ago he had decided to transfer. Both Jenkins and Wharton remain enrolled at Tennessee, according to the university's online directoy.
Wharton also is the fifth member of Tennessee's touted 2014 recruiting class to leave the program, with two other freshman departures for off-field reasons.
The Vols return their top seven producers at the receiver position from 2014 and get Josh Smith (ankle), who received a medical redshirt after playing in just three games, Marquez North (shoulder), Jason Croom (knee) and Cody Blanc (Achilles' tendon) back from injuries.
Linebacker Justin King, a rising redshirt junior who began his career as a fullback in 2012 and played tight end before landing on defense, also plans to transfer.
Paulk's status 'ongoing'
Though Treyvon Paulk was dismissed from Tennessee's football program in September for alleged punching his ex-girlfriend in the mouth at a party, the running back remains enrolled at the university.
That has led to speculation he could be reinstated to the program, and while Jones said the freshman hasn't been involved in any team activities or workouts, the coach also didn't close the door on Paulk returning to the Vols.
"It's an ongoing process, and we'll continue to evaluate that situation as time continues to move on, but right now he's still not a part of our football team in terms of any team-related activities or anything," Jones said.
"We'll continue to look into that situation, just like we do with every single player, and certain criteria, is that being met, and then what's best for Tennessee football and for Treyvon in moving forward as well."
Jones moved quickly to dismiss Paulk, who was never arrested or charged in the incident, in September.
Jalen Hurd is the only returning scholarship running back for the Vols, who brought in two -- junior college transfer and early enrollee Alvin Kamara and summer-arriving freshman John Kelly -- as part of their 2015 class.
At his news conference on signing day earlier month, Jones called the lack of running back depth "a big concern," and Thursday he immediately identified that position as a spot where Tennessee fell short in a top-five 2015 class.
"It's very uneasy," he said, "going into a football season where you'll have three running backs on scholarship. (I've) never had that."
A shoulder injury kept freshman quarterback Quinten Dormady from being cleared to throw since he arrived on campus last month, but Jones confirmed that the four-star prospect now has been cleared to resume throwing.
The battle for Tennessee's backup quarterback spot already is under way between Dormady and fellow early enrollee Jauan Jennings, and Sheriron Jones will join the freshman fray when he enrolls this summer.
"He's made remarkable progress," Jones said of Dormady. "(Head athletic trainer) Jason McVeigh's done a great job. Quinten, from a maturity standpoint, in the training room has done a great job. He's been cleared, and he'll be full-go for spring football."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.