Demetrice Morley's checkered career as a University of Tennessee football player ended on a sour note Tuesday when Kiffin announced the senior safety's dismissal from the program. The word came following a two-hour workout at the Neyland-Thompson Indoor Sports Complex.
Asked what prompted the dismissal, Kiffin somberly replied, “He just couldn't maintain the standards we need to have here at the university, so we wish him the best of luck.”
Kiffin probably chose the short answer because the long answer might've taken longer than Tuesday's practice. Morley, a 6-2, 195-pounder from Miami, has been in and out of trouble throughout his Vol career.
A consensus All-American in high school, he earned Freshman All-SEC recognition as a Vol rookie in 2005 and earned 10 starts as a sophomore in 2006. He was involved in a series of disciplinary incidents during his first two seasons with the Vols, however, culminating when he flunked out of UT in the spring of 2007.
Just when it appeared that Morley's college career was finished, he enrolled at nearby Pellissippi State and briefly got his act together. He restored his academic eligibility and earned a second chance from Fulmer, the head coach who had signed him.
Morley was appropriately penitent when he was allowed to rejoin the program last spring, repeatedly expressing regret for having let down his teammates. Fulmer, defensive coordinator John Chavis and secondary coach Larry Slade routinely praised Morley's newfound maturity as he started 11 of 12 games at free safety for the 2008 Vols.
When Kiffin was hired to replace Fulmer on Dec. 1, however, Morley reverted to his old habits. He missed several team runs, leading to an indefinite suspension. That suspension was lifted but he was late for a team meeting, which got him suspended for the first spring practice.
Morley also missed last Tuesday's practice (his significant other went into labor) and last Saturday's scrimmage (reason unknown). Questioned about Saturday's absence, Kiffin replied that he had nothing to say on the matter until he met with Morley. That, along with the sudden switch of Stephaun Raines from cornerback to safety, suggested Morley's UT career might be over.
In fact, it WAS over. Kiffin just didn't share the news until Tuesday ... and didn't share it with Tennessee's players even then. Interviewed following the practice, several were surprised to hear of Morley's dismissal.
Morley will be remembered as a superior athlete whose lack of discipline prevented him from truly scratching his potential. Though erratic, he recorded 42 tackles last fall, with 4 pass deflections, 2 pass breakups and 2 interceptions.
With Morley out of the mix, Raines was the first-team free safety in Tuesday's practice. Dennis Rogan, who played safety in 2007 but started at cornerback in 2008, got some work at free safety on Tuesday, as well.
“We had talked about moving him around even more – nickel (back) and safety and doing some things with him because he can do so many things,” Kiffin said of Rogan.
With Morley dismissed and cornerback Brent Vinson sidelined by a shoulder surgery, several of Tennessee's healthy defensive backs will be playing multiple positions the rest of spring practice.
As Kiffin put it: “There's going to be a lot of opportunities for guys to move around.”
Demetrice Morley won't be among the guys moving around, however. He's moving on.