That's not to suggest any Vol fan is saying good riddance, as neither player
did anything to embarrass the program or the school. But they both were
buried down the depth chart and their prospects for playing time appeared
Benton reportedly plans to transfer to South Florida and he might just have
success there. He played well in two spring games at UT, scoring the only
touchdown in the 2002 Orange and White exhibition. Benton didn't appear to
possess the coverage skills to be a corner in Tennessee's press scheme, plus
he got caught up in the same numbers game at safety that has relegated Mark
Jones and O.J. Owens to reserve status since 2000.
Taylor, who came in with the Class of 2000, played his high school ball at
Central Tech in Toronto, Ontario, and was discovered by Tennessee when his
highlight tape arrived two weeks before national signing day that year. The
Vol staff liked what they saw on tape and were the first to call Taylor and
get him down for a visit.
Although Taylor had good speed for a DT, he wasn't playing against the best
competition in Canada and he didn't turn out to be as good as he looked on
tape. Taylor seemed to lack both the size and intensity needed to succeed in
the SEC, the latter a trait common to Canadian gridiron imports.
Additionally, in Canada Taylor played defensive tackle a yard off the ball
as opposed to heads up with his face mask pressed against the neutral
Overall it should be a win-win situation for players and program. The
players get to pursue better opportunities to play and UT frees up a pair of
The interesting thing about Taylor and Benton leaving on the same day is
that they each arrived as the last member of their respective classes.
Benton waited until signing day to get his offer which only came after
Mississippi linebacker prospect Derrick Ducksworth defected to Southern Miss
earlier that day. Taylor was signed during a lean year for defensive
tackles. In fact, that was the same year that Memphis Trezvant's Albert
Means was rated the nation¹s top defensive lineman by at least one respected
recruiting service. When you look at it that way, Taylor probably wasn't
that much of a reach.
However it's interesting to note that Central Tech head coach Chuck
Wakefield was prophetic when he said the following about Taylor's prospects
for success at UT.
"The big thing is going to be his adjustment to that level of competition.
It's a different game. There's so many things these kids have to go through,
especially in Canada, where hockey is the big sport. Although football is
getting bigger and bigger and they're getting a lot more attention, but
they're going to an atmosphere where it's difficult for them."
The knock on Benton was lack of quickness and coverage skills and those
turned out to be the things that really held him back. So, in a very
tangible way, it shows coaches are often excellent talent evaluators. They
took a chance with their last scholarships during consecutive seasons on two
kids who contributed five years collectively and actually last longer than
some of their more celebrated classmates.
Class of 2001 receivers Michael Collins and Montrell Jones have both left
Tennessee as did running back Keldrick Williams, while Jon Poe came back
after two years of junior college and Cory Anderson returned as a walk-on.
Robert Boulware, Jomo Fagan, C.J. Fayton, Richie Gandy, Chris Heath, Justin
Reed, William Revill and Ovince Saint Preux have failed to make a
significant impact on the Hill to this point, although Fayton scored the
winning touchdown against Mississippi State last year and was a lone bright
spot in the Peach Bowl.
Running backs Jabari Davis and Derrick Tinsley have been productive from
that class while linebackers Jason Mitchell and Kevin Simon could be on the
precipice of breakout seasons. Cedric Houston has made the biggest
difference among the freshmen in the Class of 2001, but the stars turned out
to be a trio of junior college players Julian Battle, Aubrayo Franklin and
Demetrin Veal, all of whom were drafted by the NFL after two solid
An interesting aside about Taylor is that while he was the last prospect
offered in the Class of 2000, he wasn't the last to sign. That distinction
went to fellow Canadian Guillaume Dumont, an offensive lineman from St.
Hubert, Quebec. Dumont was signed in the summer of 2000 after a scholarship
opened up and he was looking for a place to play. He has yet to play, but he
If there's a moral to this story maybe it's to shop junior colleges, as long
as they're not in Canada.
Word that Andre Taylor and Shannon Benton were transferring from Tennessee
to other schools didn¹t come as a bolt from the blue, neither was the news