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Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / ESPN reported Thursday that Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt is unable to hire any assistants due to an investigation into alleged recruiting violations that surfaced early last month.

ESPN reported Thursday that the University of Tennessee has paused the hiring of any football assistants while the school continues to look into recruiting violations that surfaced last month.

The Volunteers have staff vacancies on the offensive line and defensive line.

Tennessee revealed this week that attorneys Mike Glazier and Kyle Skillman have been hired to assist compliance officials in the investigation. On Dec. 19, when Tennessee concluded a disappointing 3-7 season with a 34-13 loss to Texas A&M inside Neyland Stadium, multiple outlets reported that the program was being investigated by its own compliance department and by the NCAA for alleged recruiting violations and impermissible benefits involving current players.

Fox Sports Knoxville, which cited anonymous sources, stated the investigation dated back to early December.

"I haven't seen the article or anything like that," Tennessee third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt said after the loss to the Aggies, "but anytime in college football or college athletics, you have typical compliance stuff, and that's all I know."

Tennessee accepted a Liberty Bowl bid on Dec. 20 but pulled out a day later due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests among coaches, including Pruitt, and players. In Tennessee's Liberty Bowl announcement, athletic director Phillip Fulmer described the matchup with West Virginia in Memphis as "a tremendous development opportunity for our team and should serve as a primer to spring practice for Coach Pruitt and our returners."

ESPN reported last month that Tennessee's recruitment of Amarius Mims, a five-star offensive tackle from Cochran, Georgia, is part of the ongoing inquiry. Mims signed with Georgia and is an early enrollee for the Bulldogs.

Tennessee sophomore running back Eric Gray, the team's leading rusher this past season, did not play in the Texas A&M finale, with Pruitt not offering any specifics after the game as to why. ESPN reported Thursday that Gray's absence was related to the compliance investigation.

Pruitt has a 16-19 record through three seasons in Knoxville, with this past year marking the first time the Vols ever had lost six consecutive games by double-digit margins.

 

Hooker transfers

After losing Jarrett Guarantano and JT Shrout to the NCAA transfer portal, Tennessee picked up a transfer quarterback Thursday with Virginia Tech's Hendon Hooker, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Greensboro, North Carolina, who was a redshirt junior this past season.

In 21 career games with the Hokies, Hooker completed 197 of 312 passes (63.1%) for 2,894 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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