KNOXVILLE – Tennessee will be receiving some unexpected help at running back by way of transfer.
Running back Justus Pickett, formerly at Maryland, announced his intention to transfer to UT via Twitter on Friday night. He left Maryland after the fall semester to attend to family issues (per the Washington Post).
Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Pickett was recruited by UT out of high school, but never received a formal scholarship offer from the Vols. He chose the Terps over offers from Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina, Duke, Stanford and others.
Described as “a quick, shifty player who saw extended time as a reserve running back and kickoff return specialist” by Maryland’s official team website, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Pickett was one of Maryland’s primary running backs early in the 2012 season.
He had a combined 32 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns in wins over William & Mary and Temple to start last season. He saw reduced time after that, carrying the ball 36 times over the last 10 games for just 28 yards and one score.
He finished his two-year Maryland career with 143 carries for 416 yards and four touchdowns, 29 receptions for 187 yards and one touchdown to go along with 31 kickoff returns for 585 yards.
Pickett, who has three years to complete his final two years of eligibility, must sit out 2013 unless he applies for a hardship waiver from the NCAA. It’s unlikely that he’ll be on scholarship immediately at UT, though the school hasn’t confirmed or denied that possibility.
He’ll add depth to a unit that will lose Rajion Neal after 2013. Marlin Lane, Alden Hill and Tom Smith are the scholarship running backs scheduled to return campus in 2014, while the Vols have commitments from running backs Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk in the class of 2014.
Tennessee has lost two running backs – Quenshaun Watson and Davante Bourque – in the past year and 2013 running back signee Jabo Lee isn’t expected to make it to campus this fall due to academic issues.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga