Announcing a decision to refrain from the NCAA transfer portal may not be deemed newsworthy from a traditional point of view, but Tennessee's football program could use anything to celebrate amid a continuing exodus.
Sophomore offensive lineman Darnell Wright, the No. 10 prospect nationally in the 2019 signing class, revealed Monday night that he would remain with the Volunteers. The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder from Huntington, West Virginia, started nine games this past season, mostly at right tackle.
"I'm staying. OK. Bye," Wright posted on Twitter.
Wright's return will keep Tennessee's highest-rated recruit of the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville, but the next five most heralded signees have chosen to enter the portal — tackle Wanya Morris (#28 nationally in the 2019 class), linebackers Henry To'o To'o (#44 in 2019), J.J. Peterson (#48 in 2018) and Quavaris Crouch (#61 in 2019), and defensive back Key Lawrence (#81 in 2020). Peterson did not record any stats this past season and took a leave of absence from the program in mid October.
Pruitt was dismissed along with inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer and outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton last Monday after an internal investigation revealed multiple NCAA Level I and Level II violations.
Wright was named to the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team in 2019, when he made five starts at right tackle and two starts at right guard on a Vols squad that capped an 8-5 season with a 23-22 triumph over Indiana in the Gator Bowl. His decision to remain after last year's 3-7 collapse counters the decision of Morris, who recently announced Oklahoma as his transfer destination.
Lawrence, who played in 10 games last season and recorded eight tackles, entered the portal last Friday and announced Monday that he was transferring to Oklahoma as well.
Tennessee will move forward on the offensive line without center Brandon Kennedy and left guard Trey Smith, who were seniors this past season, and without Morris and Jahmir Johnson, who entered the portal as a graduate transfer. Johnson and Morris combined to start all 10 games at left tackle this past season.
Wright and right guard Cade Mays are the top returning Vols up front, with Jerome Carvin and Cooper Mays having earned occasional starts this past season as well.
Bama tabs Marrone
Alabama on Monday afternoon confirmed the hiring of former Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone as its offensive line coach.
Marrone has a 38-60 record as an NFL coach but led Buffalo to a 9-7 record in his second and final season in 2014. He went 10-6 with the Jaguars in 2017, reaching the AFC championship game before losing at New England.
"We are extremely fortunate to be able to add Doug Marrone to our staff," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said in a release. "He knows our new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien well and will do a fantastic job with our offensive line. He has extensive experience as not only an offensive line coach, but also as a head coach at Syracuse and in the NFL with Buffalo and Jacksonville.
"Doug has an excellent track record for recruiting and developing players. I'm excited about his ability to help our players reach their full potential."
Marrone is not a stranger to the SEC, having served as Georgia's offensive line coach in 2000 and as Tennessee's tackles and tight ends coach in 2001.
"I have always admired the programs Coach Saban has built, and I am excited to have the opportunity to join his staff here at Alabama," Marrone said. "Coach's program is the model of consistency, and I am looking forward to helping continue that tradition of success with an exceptional group of players and coaches."
Multiple media outlets have reported that Alabama will add Robert Gillespie as running backs coach to replace Charles Huff, who left to become the head coach at Marshall. Gillespie played at Florida during Steve Spurrier's final four seasons in 1998-2001, and he was Tennessee's running backs coach under Butch Jones from 2013-17.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.