James Banks: Yes or no?

Like a bad penny, Tennessee can't seem to get rid of James Banks.

Suspended multiple times before being dismissed from the UT football team several months ago, Banks is begging Phillip Fulmer for yet another chance. Based on recent quotes printed by the Associated Press, the Vols' head man does not seem inclined to provide one, although he says the former player seems appropriately remorseful.

Banks says he will walk on without a scholarship just to get an opportunity to rejoin the program. This puts Fulmer in a bit of a dilemma. Banks brings considerable positives to the table but he also brings a lot of baggage.

Here are the positives:

1. He is an enormously gifted athlete who led UT in receptions (42 for 621 yards and 6 TDs) in 2003. If Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain, C.J. Fayton or Chris Hannon were to be hurt, Banks would provide a nice insurance policy at wideout.

2. Prior to his dismissal, Banks was making strides at safety, a position of significant need for the 2005 Vols. He might be able to contribute at that spot just on pure athleticism.

3. Banks is not the kind of guy likely to be a cancer in a program. Son of a minister, he is a charismatic fellow who seems to be popular among his teammates.

4. The fact Banks is willing to rejoin the team as a walk-on suggests he realizes he is about to blow a lucrative NFL future and is desperately seeking to salvage his career.

And now for the baggage:

1. Banks is incredibly immature. His past transgressions include missing team meetings, underage alcohol consumption, violation of Knoxville's noise ordinance, marijuana use and submitting a diluted drug test. And those are just the violations that have been publicized.

2. Banks has promised to clean up his act before. He didn't.

3. If Fulmer can't trust Banks to submit an untainted drug test, how can he trust him to put the team ahead of his own interests on the field each Saturday?

4. Should Fulmer allow Banks to return, does that send a message to the rest of the team that repeated violations of team policy are OK, so long as you say "I'm sorry" afterwards?

If I were Phillip Fulmer, my biggest concern would be the impact of Banks' return on team chemistry -- which appears to be outstanding at this time. For that reason, I'd consult my captains (Jason Allen, Rick Clausen, Cody Douglas, Parys Haralson, Jesse Mahelona, Rob Smith) and get their input. Their sentiments ultimately would determine whether I gave Banks another chance or told him to get lost.

Needless to say, if I allowed Banks to return, I'd keep him on a very short leash. He'd be drug-tested on a frequent basis. And the first time his grades slipped or he showed up late for a team meeting, he'd be gone.


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