Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Tennessee's secondary likely can't take too many more hits. But they've kept on coming anyway.
Per our CBSSports.com RapidReporter Daniel Lewis, Derek Dooley announced Monday that true freshman safety Pat Martin has left the team. The decision was mutual, according to Dooley.
As blows to the Volunteer defensive backfield go, this is nothing like losing an All-SEC caliber player like Janzen Jackson. But Martin's departure remains far from meaningless, even within the context of the 2011 season alone; a four-star recruit and one of the top-20 safeties in the nation this past year according to Maxpreps, Martin was in line to compete for playing time (if not necessarily a starting role) and could have helped a still-thin Vol roster on special teams.
That won't happen, and with one injury or off-field incident, the Vol secondary could feel the sting of Martin's decision. Even after Jackson's dismissal, the Vols return a pair of starters at safety in Prentiss Waggner and Brent Brewer. But Waggner's move from corner has already thrust either true freshman Justin Coleman or JUCO transfer Izauea Lanier into the starting foursome at CB, and the current second-string at safety consists of little-used senior Rod Wilks and true freshman Brian Randolph. It hasn't helped that highly-regarded JUCO defensive back Byron Moore has had a disappointing first fall camp.
For his part, Dooley says he isn't worried about the depth issues at safety. “Those guys have really progressed," he said of Wilks and Randolph. "We wouldn’t bat an eye putting them in."
But it's easy to say that now, tougher if it actually comes to having Wilks or Randolph try to contain the likes of Alshon Jeffery or Orson Charles. And Dooley isn't hiding from the pain of losing Jackson; asked to assess his secondary in the wake of his dismissal, Dooley said "Well, we’re not as good."
And even if Martin was a true freshman, when all is said and done, we think you could say the same about him.