Following Sunday’s announcement of coaching staff changes, Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley announced Monday several roster changes for the 2011 season. By far the most concerning is that Safety Janzen Jackson, a sophomore starter, has withdrawn from the University of Tennessee’s 2011 spring semester in order to deal with personal issues. Jackson also missed bowl preparations in Knoxville following a dorm room incident in order to deal with these personal issues. Three other Vols players have also left the team for various reasons, and one suspend player has rejoined the team.
Quote from the University Release:“We are continuing to support Janzen as he addresses his personal issues during this temporary withdrawal from school,” said Dooley. “While he would still be eligible to compete if he enrolls this fall, nothing is more important than Janzen’s personal well-being.”
Quote from the GoVolsXtra.com article:“His leaving for bowl practice was not a punishment, and as long as he continues to manage his personal issues and football and school, he’s going to be welcomed back in the program,” Dooley said. “He’s clearly reached a point where the personal issues have become much greater than his ability to manage workouts and school. Until he gets a little clarity on those issues, we’re going to support him.”
The staff has made it clear that they want Jackson on the team during the fall semester, however it is unlikely that this move caught the coaching staff off guard. The Vols recently signed 8 defensive backs in the 2011 recruiting class, including 2 of the top 3 Junior College defensive backs in the country. Jackson would need to acquire a waiver from the NCAA excusing him from the spring semester in order to be eligible for the fall.
Jackson is the best player on the Vols’ defense and could not afford to be lost. In 2010 Jackson had 69 tackles and 5 interceptions, and was a key factor in stopping big plays. However the recruits gained on February 2nd will be able to help smoothly transition the defense should Jackson not be able to return. Byron Moore should compete for starting minutes as soon as he steps on campus, and freshman such as Brian Randolph can provide quality back up minutes.
The Vols are hoping for Jackson’s return, but like Dooley said whatever personal issues Jackson is dealing with, they are more important than football. If Jackson felt like he needed to withdrawal from school and quit the team in order to take care of this then its probably not good. Various reports have indicated that the issues have nothing to do with personal or family illness, legal issues, or financial issues.
I for one hope that Jackson gets everything squared away and can proceed with his football career, which would appear to have a bright future. Hopefully this time away from the team and school will allow him to focus on what he needs to in order to take care of these issues. Prayer for him has been asked for by various people connected to the program. Hopefully the reports are true and he is not dealing with any medical issues or family problems.
Along with Jackson’s, four other Vols fates with the football program were announced by Dooley on Monday evening as well. Dooley announced that junior defensive back Art Evans has been reinstated, after being suspended indefinitely while dealing with some financial issues. Evans recorded 21 tackles as well as forcing a fumble during his seven games played with the Vols this season.“Art Evans has had his suspension lifted, so he’s working out with the team,” Dooley said. “He cleaned up his compliance concerns, and he’s been reinstated, approved and ready to go.”
Junior center Cody Pope will no longer participate in football for medical reasons. Pope, who suffered a stinger in practice during September, never regained strength in his neck enough in order to be cleared to play football. Pope played in six games during his career at UT.
Additionally, defensive back Ted Meline has withdrawn from school for personal reasons and left the team permanently. Dooley has granted Meline a full release. Meline, a redshirt freshman, was expected to move back to wide receiver this fall and provide depth for a thin core of receivers. His departure is the second biggest blow to the team of the four announced departures.
Finally, linebacker Jerod Askew has been dismissed for a violation of team rules. A Rivals four star out of high school, Askew has never played a down of football for the Vols in an SEC game, having only seen the field during the fourth quarter of the Vols blowout win versus UT Martin. With the departures of Askew and Meline, Coach Lane Kiffin’s top ten recruiting class continues to dwindle. Two five stars in Bryce Brown and now Janzen Jackson, five four stars, and a three star player are no longer with the team. Three to four others have been passed on the depth chart by freshmen and incoming freshman.