July 21, 2024

Tennessee Vols to reportedly lose another defensive starter to the transfer portal

It’s been a rough week-plus for the Tennessee Volunteers’ potential 2024 roster.  DE Tyler Baron – second on the team in sacks this year with six – announced he’s entering the transfer portal.  Josh Heupel missed on #1 OT Jordan Seaton (IMG Academy), who announced his commitment to Colorado on Thursday.  TE prospects Justin Joly (portal – UConn) and former commit Jonathan Echols (HS senior – IMG Academy) both ended up turning their sights elsewhere – or in Echols case flipping his commitment to USF – for reasons not specified after having varying interest in Tennessee.

Add another significant name to the list of players who won’t be in Knoxville next fall.  Per Matt Zemitz of 247 Sports, STAR Tamarion McDonald is entering the transfer portal.

The loss is a significant one, as McDonald was solid in the hybrid linebacker/defensive back position in Tennessee’s defense.  He started 23 games over the last two years for the Vols.  He compiled 116 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, and 16 passes defended in his four seasons in Knoxville.

However, it’s his contributions before the play that will really be missed by Heupel and defensive coordinator Tim Banks.  According to defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, it was McDonald who handled the pre-snap reads and communicating assignments to his teammates.

That experience and knowledge was evident this year against Missouri after McDonald left with an injury during the Tigers’ first offensive series.  The Volunteers’ communication and pre-snap preparation was subpar, and Missouri ran roughshod all over Tennessee’s defense in a dismal 36-7 loss to the Tigers back on November 11.

Now, Heupel, Banks, and Martinez will have to find another capable player – either in house or through the portal – in order to fill a significant role on a defense that already has plenty of question marks as the 2023 season begins to come to a close.

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