KNOXVILLE – A new semester is underway at Tennessee, and at least three players will not return as part of the football team.
Defensive tackle Omari Phillips, defensive lineman Trent Taylor and cornerback Deion Bonner, all true freshmen in 2012, will not be back. Phillips and Taylor are no longer listed as active students at UT. Multiple reports have also said that Bonner is out as well.
Bonner had a short, though eventful, stint on campus. The Columbus, Ga., native was listed on a campus police report in October as a suspect in a theft, but was never charged in the incident. Former coach Derek Dooley said there was “no change” in his status after that point, but Bonner later was suspended from team indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Dooley vehemently defended the signing of Bonner out of high school, despite him being charged with the theft of items from a University of Georgia locker room during a recruiting event in 2011.
“We did a lot of diligence on the situation,” Dooley said of Bonner after signing him last February.”Deion was incredibly truthful, was incredibly remorseful and I don’t know of a high school player that had to pay the piper more for what they did than what he had to go through.
“He had an absolute public disparagement, (losing) five games of his high school career and everybody stopped recruiting him. It was tough. It was incredible the maturity that he showed and I believe that he can come in and represent Tennessee the right way, learn from his mistakes and be a great example.”
Bonner appeared in nine games, mainly on special teams. He would’ve had a chance to compete for more extensive playing time at cornerback in 2013 with the graduation of Prentiss Waggner and Marsalis Teague.
Phillips and Taylor were highly sought after defensive line prospects who didn’t crack the rotation as freshmen at UT. Phillips, a native of Venice, Fla., originally signed with Florida in 2012, but when admissions didn’t clear him, he was free to look at other options and ended up enrolling Knoxville in August. The 6-6, 325-pound lineman appeared only in the Georgia State game as a backup.
Taylor, a native of Lakeland, Fla., also appeared in only the Georgia State game. The 6-2, 290-pound lineman was credited with one tackle during that contest. Both Taylor and Phillips were away from the team late in the season for unspecified reasons.
Tennessee has already lost four of its 22 signees from the 2012 class, Dooley’s final one at Tennessee. The Vols currently have 62 players on scholarship.
Five new players enroll: Five members of the 2013 class are expected to begin class on Wednesday as well.
Wide receiver Paul Harris (Upper Marlboro, Md.), defensive back Lemond Johnson (Cooper City, Fla.), linebacker Corey Vereen (Winter Garden, Fla.) and defensive back Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Clarksville, Tenn.) are all listed as active students in Tennessee’s student directory.
Junior college defensive back Riyahd Jones of Garden City (Kan.) Community College is also expected to enroll, though he hasn’t appeared in the directory yet.
2013 odds released: Anybody feeling brave? Tennessee’s odds of winning next year’s national title are listed at 100/1 by Bovada.com, a sports betting website. Tennessee is tied with Arkansas as the eighth most likely SEC team to win it.
Alabama (5/1) and Oregon (8/1) have the best odds. The Vols play both teams on the road in 2013.
Former Vol passes away: Former defensive back Dave Bennett, who played for Tennessee from 1989-92, passed away earlier this week after a lengthy battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The Memphis native was a two-year starter at UT, finishing with 57 career tackles.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga