Basically, a mass exodus has occurred during the past four weeks:
Rising junior Quinton Chievous announced plans to transfer. Then rising senior Jarnell Stokes declared for the NBA Draft. The departure of head coach Cuonzo Martin for Cal prompted 7-footer Kingsley Okoroh to renege on a commitment to UT one day after announcing it. The subsequent hiring of Donnie Tyndall to replace Martin led November signees Larry Austin, Jordan Cornish Phil Cofer and C.J. Turman to secure releases so they can reconsider their options.
With the seven players mentioned above, Tennessee would have 14 scholarship athletes, one over the NCAA limit. Minus the players mentioned above, Tennessee has just seven scholarship athletes – not even enough to hold an intrasquad scrimmage. Given that Tyndall relies on a taxing uptempo game, the Vols desperately need a few more bodies.
Option 1 appears to be keeping Chievous. Although he has played sparingly on The Hill, the 6-foot-6 small forward would help offset the loss of Cornish, another 6-foot-6 small forward. Chievous seems willing to stick around, and Tyndall reportedly is agreeable.
Option 2 is to sign some reinforcements from the junior college ranks. Leading candidates include 6-foot-10 Octavius Ellis and 6-foot-9 Arkeem Joseph. Either could help soften the departure of Turman and/or Cofer, both 6-feet-8.
Option 3 may be for Tyndall to allow one or two of his Southern Miss signees to follow him to Knoxville. Best bets are Willie Carmichael, Edson Avila and Rasham Suarez. Carmichael is a 6-foot-7 forward, Avila a 6-foot-10 junior college post and Suarez a 6-foot-3 junior college point guard. Tindall says he won't try to pull USM's signees but he didn't rule out accepting a few of them should they decide Knoxville is preferable to Hattiesburg.
Here are a few notes on each candidate:
Chievous redshirted as a true freshman in 2011-12, then averaged 2.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 10.2 minutes per game in 2012-13. Thanks to the development of 6-foot-6 Josh Richardson into a quality starter and 6-foot-5 Armani Moore into a superior sixth man, Chievous barely saw the floor in 2013-14. He's a tough kid who can guard small forwards and power forwards alike, plus he's proven to be a good team player, so he's probably as good an option as most of the small forwards available in the spring signing period.
Ellis is a 6-foot-10, 225-pound Memphis Whitehaven grad who signed with Cincinnati but played in just three games for the Bearcats due to a hand injury and a six-game suspension. Dismissed from the program following his freshman season, he averaged 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College in 2013-14. He shot 66.8 percent from the field and blocked 75 shots in 24 games. His best outing came against Panola, when he produced 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. Ellis signed with Arizona State last fall but was given a release April 7. Tyndall had been recruiting him to Southern Miss prior to taking the UT job.
Joseph is a 6-foot-9, 280-pounder from Brooklyn who recently visited the USM campus. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds at Garden City (Kansas) Community College in 2012-13, then returned to The Bronx to attend Monroe College in 2013-14. He shot 56.2 percent from the field en route to averaging 8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 15.8 minutes per game.
Avila is a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder from Brooklyn who picked Oklahoma over Memphis, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State coming out of high school but wound up attending Seward (Kansas) Community College. He averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from the foul line. He blocked 25 shots last season and grabbed 66 of his 166 rebounds off the offensive glass. Upon signing him last November, Tyndall called him "a defensive presence. He can block shots, he can change shots."
Carmichael is a 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward from Wekiva High in Apopka, Fla. He signed with Southern Miss last November, picking the Golden Eagles over Tulsa, Jacksonville and Stetson. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a high school junior. His senior stats are unavailable. Upon signing him last November, Tyndall called Carmichael "a great athlete who plays with a high motor. He reminds me of a young Kenneth Faried in that he plays extremely hard." Faried was a two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year for Tyndall at Morehead State who was a first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and is having a fine career with the Denver Nuggets. Carmichael says on twitter that he isn't sure whether to follow Tyndall to Tennessee or not.
Suarez is a 6-foot-3 point guard who led College of Central Florida to the 2014 NJCAA national championship, scoring 17 points in the title game. Upon signing him last November, Tyndall called Suarez "the best point guard in all of junior college." Originally from Jonesboro, Ga., which he led to a state title, Suarez averaged 14.9 points, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season in guiding CCF to a 27-3 record.
Discuss the Vols' depth situation with InsideTennessee staff and subscribers by clicking here.