Good news on McDaniel?

After months of behind-the-scenes wrangling, there appears to be some progress in the assault case against a Tennessee football players ... and it could open the door for his return to the Vol program.

According to The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Don Bosch, attorney for defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, has reached an agreement with Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols that will allow McDaniel to appear in court July 28. His court date had been set for Aug. 16.

] This change could be significant. The hearing was postponed several times previously, apparently in hopes an out-of-court settlement could be reached between McDaniel and fellow UT student Edward Goodrich, who suffered serious facial injuries when he allegedly was struck by McDaniel during a pickup basketball game last January. The fact the hearing is now ready to proceed suggests there has been some progress in the negotiations. Perhaps an out-of-court settlement has been reached. Or perhaps Nichols has agreed to reduce the charges against McDaniel from felony assault to misdemeanor assault.

McDaniel, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior from Columbia, S.C., has been suspended from the Vol program, pending resolution of this matter. To return to the team he probably needs a reduced charge or acquittal AND a favorable ruling from UT Judicial Affairs. He went before that body on May 18 and is still awaiting a verdict.

If McDaniel's July 28 hearing goes well, he could rejoin the Vols in time for preseason drills, which begin Aug. 9. If he remains suspended, he still might be allowed to redshirt this fall and return to the team in time for the 2006 season.

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