The announced departures of two sophomores – quarterback B. J. Coleman and offensive lineman Darris Sawtelle – brings to nine the number of Vols who have left the program since the introduction of Lane Kiffin as head coach back on Dec. 1.
Although he finished spring practice bracketed first-team with senior Jonathan Crompton, Coleman practiced almost exclusively with the second-team offense. He told his hometown newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, that he felt he was not getting a legitimate chance to win the first-team job at Tennessee.
“It’s the best move for me,” Coleman said. “What changed my mind is, after this spring, I don’t see myself getting a fair shake. Based on conversations with coaches and things that happened this spring, I feel the staff has goals that do not include me.”
Although they were compiled against mostly second-team defenders, Coleman's scrimmage stats were superior to Crompton's. Coleman was a combined 41 of 60 (68.3%) for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Crompton was 31 of 54 (57.4%) for 324 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Third-teamer Nick Stephens, a junior, was 13 of 25 for 159 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions.
“I gave it everything I had,” Coleman told the Times Free Press. “I couldn’t have had a better spring or made it more obvious to them that I was their guy. I proved it on the field and off.”
Sawtelle, grandson and namesake of former Vol All-American Darris McCord, decided to leave the program following a brief meeting with Kiffin.
"It was very polite and very helpful," Sawtelle told The Knoxville News-Sentinel. "It took about three minutes. That changed my life."
Sawtelle, a 6-6, 315-pounder from Birmingham, Mich., redshirted in 2007 and missed 2008 following surgery on both shoulders last summer.
The exodus from the Big Orange program began with the January dismissals of offensive lineman Ramone Johnson, offensive lineman Darius Myers and wide receiver E.J. Abrams-Ward. Offensive lineman Preston Bailey was next, withdrawing from the program in February.
Reserve tailback Lennon Creer opted to quit midway through spring practice, then first-team free safety Demetrice Morley was dismissed for a series of disciplinary episodes. Defensive tackle-turned-offensive guard Donald Langley left the program shortly thereafter.
The departure of Coleman leaves Tennessee with just two scholarship QBs, Crompton and Stephens, with no signees due to join the mix in August.
The departure of Sawtelle leaves Tennessee with just three scholarship guards – senior first-teamers Vladimir Richard and Jacques McClendon, plus backup Cody Pope. The cast also includes two walk-ons, Cory Sullins and Minor Bowens. Signee Kevin Revis, who can play guard or center, joins the cast in August.