LaMarcus Coker sat out Game 1 against California but played in Games 2 through 8. He missed several counseling sessions in recent weeks, however, which led to a one-game suspension (announced on Wednesday) and another drug-screening. Coker's failure to pass the most recent test proved to be the last straw.
The 5-11, 195-pound sophomore from Antioch led the Vols in rushing yards (696) and yards per carry (6.4) in 2006 but has struggled this fall, rushing for just 169 yards and 3.8 per carry. He has been a standout on special teams, however, ranking fourth among SEC players with a 26.5-yard average on kickoff returns. His 37-yard return with 1:24 remaining last Saturday night played a critical role in Tennessee's drive to the game-tying field goal vs. South Carolina, a game the Vols eventually won in overtime.
In a statement released today by the university, head coach Phillip Fulmer said the following:
"As I've had a chance to further investigate and talk to others close to the situation, I have decided to dismiss LaMarcus from the team because he did not do what was asked of him. I want a positive environment for our athletes to learn and grow. This is what is right for the young men on our team and for the program.
"As a coach, my first obligation is to the growth of the young men with whom I'm entrusted. Sometimes, that means encouragement and mentoring, sometimes it means helping them understand the consequences of their decisions. LaMarcus is a talented young man with a lot of life in front of him. It is my hope that he will look back at this one day as a life lesson that helped him get things straight for his future."