Head coach Lane Kiffin confirmed following Thursday's practice that Creer, a 6-1 211-pound rising junior from Tatum, Texas, is leaving the program.
“Lennon's no longer with us,” Kiffin said. “We had a meeting, and he's decided he doesn't want to be a part of the program anymore. He's going to go in a different direction, so we wish him the best of luck.”
The “3” recently was removed from Creer's practice jersey, suggesting he had gotten in the head man's doghouse. Kiffin declined to share Creer's reasons for leaving, however, choosing to “keep that between us.”
Once described by former UT head man Phillip Fulmer as being similar to former Vol Chuck Webb, Lennon Creer averaged a team-best 5.3 yards per carry as a reserve last fall. He projected to battle rising senior Montario Hardesty for the first-team tailback job in 2009. Hardesty has had a vastly superior spring, however, and so has rising sophomore Tauren Poole. Creer appeared to be battling mid-term freshman Toney Williams for the third-team job.
Kiffin described the 5-10 203-pound Poole as “a one-cut runner. That has really helped him. The system is really kind of designed for a guy like him. We don't know how much long speed he has but we know he's very quick. We think he'll do very well in the system.”
Williams, a 6-0 218-pounder becomes the clearcut No. 3 tailback now that Creer is leaving.
“Toney's a little bit bigger,” Kiffin said. “He's really been extremely physical. For a guy that's really a senior in high school, he has come in and really attacked the defensive ends in some drills and shown some toughness.”
Creer's departure opens the door even wider for February signees David Oku and Bryce Brown. Brown was ranked the No. 1 prospect in America by Scout.com after rushing for 1,872 yards and 30 touchdowns last fall as a high school senior in Wichita, Kansas. Oku was rated a top-10 tailback prospect after rushing for 1,905 yards and 23 TDs for his high school team in Oklahoma City.
“We've got a pretty good set of guys coming in that we're excited about,” Kiffin said. “This gives some other guys some more opportunities.”
Kiffin said he will release Creer from his scholarship but restrict his next stop to schools that do not belong to the SEC or do not show up on future Vol schedules. The head man added that he has emphasized the need for Creer to finish the current semester in good academic standing, so the Vols are not penalized under the NCAA's APR (academic progress) rule.