The race to become Tennessee's starting quarterback for the Sept. 2 opener against Bowling Green may no longer include redshirt sophomore Brian Maurer.
Maurer was not at Wednesday morning's portion of practice that was open to the media. On Tuesday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Ocala, Florida, posted "They took my dream after 4 days" on his Instagram account before deleting the message.
This past weekend, Maurer tweeted "I'll bleed orange forever."
The Volunteers are scheduled to conduct their first preseason scrimmage of the Josh Heupel era Thursday morning. Sophomore Harrison Bailey, who quarterbacked Tennessee's final three games last season, Virginia Tech graduate transfer Hendon Hooker and Michigan graduate transfer Joe Milton have also been vying for the starting role.
Maurer has appeared in 12 games with the Vols and has made four starts, with all four coming as a freshman in 2019.
In his debut start against Georgia, he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway for his first career completion inside Neyland Stadium. He also started that season at Alabama and had a 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter, becoming the first Tennessee quarterback to notch a rushing touchdown against the Crimson Tide since Casey Clausen in 2003.
Maurer sustained multiple concussions that season, however, and he revealed in May 2020 that he was battling anxiety and depression and had contemplated suicide.
"On Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, I planned to take my own life," Maurer posted on Instagram. "I thought I had lost my battle with depression and that my pain had come to an end. As I was going to do it, I said, 'God, if this isn't your plan for me, please send me a sign.'
"Two minutes later, my mom called me with my baby nephew, Jeremiah, and said she was just calling to say she loved me. I then knew that by ending my pain, I would be causing so much more to the people who loved me."
Maurer played in only four games last season, with a 22-yard run against Vanderbilt and an 8-yard pass against Florida the statistical highlights.
Tennessee's first scrimmage is certain to go a long way in determining pecking orders and playing time at various positions, and that includes receiver. Kodi Burns, the receivers coach, expressed in a news conference Wednesday that he would like to have as many capable bodies available as possible.
"It's clear that we run an up-tempo offense and play extremely fast, so there is not going to be a whole lot of time for substitutions," Burns said. "You would like to be two deep at every single position, and we could have three or four wideouts on the field every single play. We've got to stay healthy — that's a big part of it."
Burns added that the receiver room has "a bunch of unknowns right now."
When asked about sophomore Jimmy Calloway, who played quarterback in high school, Burns said, "I don't have enough good things to say about him. He has started to step up and make plays."
Burns also smiled when asked about freshman Walker Merrill of Brentwood, saying, "He does not lack confidence."
"He's not wrong," Merrill said. "I think it comes down to being doubted."
Merrill is mostly working as a slot receiver, where he said that Calloway and sophomore Jalin Hyatt have been shining.
Johnny Majors Classic
Pittsburgh's trip to Tennessee on Sept. 11 has been designated as the Johnny Majors Classic.
Majors, the former Tennessee halfback who finished runner-up in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting, coached the Panthers to the 1976 national championship before returning to his alma mater and leading the Vols to Southeastern Conference titles in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
"Honoring Johnny Majors in this way creates another really special and unique element to an already special season as we celebrate Neyland Stadium's centennial," Tennessee athletic director Danny White said Wednesday through a release. "I appreciate Pittsburgh's partnership on this. It will be a memorable day for the Majors family as well as fans of both schools who appreciate Johnny Majors' hall of fame legacy."
The Panthers and Vols will reciprocate the event when they meet at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on Sept, 10, 2022.