KNOXVILLE – Tennessee junior defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore will forego his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft a year early.
UT officials confirmed that news on Wednesday afternoon along with making the official proclamation that juniors Tyler Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter will also leave early.
The news of Sentimore’s departure is by far the biggest surprise of the four. The 6-2, 290-pound native of Norco, La., had a productive season with 18 tackles, four sacks, five tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries, but is not widely viewed as an NFL prospect at this point. He played defensive end in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme.
Sentimore originally signed with Alabama out of high school before detouring to Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College. He signed with Vols in large part because of former defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, who coached Sentimore while both were with the Crimson Tide (2009-10).
Sentimore made headlines in October for some of his comments about Alabama as the Vols prepared to play his former team. He said he regretted even going there and has some less-than-flattering quotes about coach Nick Saban.
“Yeah, it's just his personality,” Sentimore said of why he didn’t enjoy playing for Saban. “Like some players, he'll see you in the hallway and he'll just walk right past you like he don't see you. You know what I'm saying? I don't like stuff like that.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I want this game more than any other game because I want to beat Saban.”
Sentimore was not projected to leave early by any major NFL Draft coverage service and thus hasn’t been included in any major mock drafts or player rankings. He is an athletic 290-pound defensive lineman who could potentially play defensive end of defensive tackle in the NFL, so he might have some NFL potential. He is more likely to be an undrafted free agent at this point, though.
His departure could leave the Vols thin on the defensive line in the near future. Freshmen Omari Phillips and Trent Taylor are not returning to the team. With veterans such as Daniel McCullers, Maurice Couch, Corey Miller, Daniel Hood, Marlon Walls and Jacques Smith (who will probably return to defensive end in the 4-3) returning next year, the Vols should be fine in 2013, but it gets thin quickly after that.
Taking into consideration only the players currently on the roster, the Vols would have just five returning scholarship defensive linemen in 2014 – Allan Carson, Jordan Williams, Danny O’Brien, Trevarris Saulsberry and Greg Clark.
They currently hold commitments from defensive end Jason Carr and defensive lineman Joe Sanders for the 2013 class. Both have looked around to some extent and UT will continue to try to hold on to them as well as land other defensive line prospects.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga