Updated on Feb. 19, 2021, with Tennessee's most recent 247Sports.com national recruiting ranking at 3:30 p.m. and information on Tennessee's coaching staff additions at 7:40 p.m.
Dylan Brooks, the highest-rated member of Tennessee's 2021 class of football signees, will not be suiting up for the Volunteers.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder from Roanoke, Alabama, who was projected to play outside linebacker for the Vols, received his unconditional release from Tennessee on Friday. Brooks committed to the Vols in late April over Alabama, Auburn and LSU, and he was a huge reason that Tennessee climbed as high as No. 2 in the 247Sports.com team rankings in May.
Tennessee had the No. 15 class during December's early signing period for the 2021 recruiting cycle and was No. 19 as of Friday afternoon.
Brooks, who was rated by 247Sports as the nation's No. 6 weakside defensive end and No. 76 prospect overall, signed with Tennessee in the 72-hour December window but didn't publicize his signing until New Year's Eve. When Jeremy Pruitt was fired Jan. 18 along with outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer for committing multiple NCAA Level I and Level II rules violations, Brooks posted a peace sign emoji on Twitter before deleting it.
He would come back a couple days later on social media with a "Free Me" hashtag.
"I think he's really talked himself into liking Auburn," 247Sports recruiting analyst Ryan Callahan said earlier this month. "I think that's where his mind is. I think he's going to Auburn if things go his way."
Brooks is the second 2021 Tennessee signee this week to receive his release, with four-star running back Cody Brown from the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn being the first on Tuesday.
Tennessee's highest-rated signee from this past cycle is now inside linebacker Aaron Willis of Colonial Heights, Virginia, who is the nation's No. 137 prospect overall. The Vols currently have 19 signees in their 2021 class and two graduate transfers: quarterback Hendon Hooker from Virginia Tech and kicker Chase McGrath from Southern California.
Former Auburn defensive end Big Kat Bryant announced on social media that he was heading to Tennessee as a grad transfer, but that was two days before Pruitt, Felton and Niedermeyer were fired. He quickly deleted his announcement post on Twitter and hasn't commented publicly about his 2021 playing plans since.
New Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel on Friday confirmed the hires of Rodney Garner as defensive line coach and Willie Martinez as secondary coach. Both assistants are in their second stints in Knoxville, with Garner having coached in the 1996-97 seasons under Phillip Fulmer and Martinez from 2013-16 under Butch Jones.
"Bringing Coach Garner and Coach Martinez back to Tennessee is an important step for our program," Heupel said in a release. "They understand what it takes to build an elite defense in the SEC and have developed numerous NFL draft picks through the years. They also coached and mentored many student-athletes on some of Tennessee's most successful teams.
"We are thrilled to welcome them back to Knoxville, and we know they will make a significant impact on our program once again."
Tennessee also appears close to landing Michigan linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary for the same role with the Vols. Jean-Mary, an Appalachian State linebacker from 1993-97, was the linebackers coach under Charlie Strong at Louisville (2010-13), Texas (2014-16) and South Florida (2017-19), where he added the role of defensive coordinator.