The quarterback battle at Tennessee lost a contender on Thursday, when the Volunteers dismissed four-star freshman Kaidon Salter after a second off-field issue since his enrollment in January. Salter was ranked the No. 47 overall player in the Class of 2021 by 247Sports and considered the No. 6 overall quarterback in the class.
Salter and fellow freshman Amari McNeill, an offensive lineman, were charged with misdemeanor drug offenses after an early morning traffic stop Saturday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. For Salter, the issue constituted a second transgression after he was also suspended during spring practices.
"Kaidon Salter has been dismissed from our football program," Tennessee said in a statement released to GoVols247. "We wish Kaidon and his family all the best in his future endeavors."
The dismissal of a promising quarterback prospect constitutes a blow to first-year coach Josh Heupel's efforts to rebuild a long-suffering former SEC East power. However, the Volunteers are still projected to have four scholarship quarterbacks with power conference game experience on their roster in the fall.
Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker and Michigan transfer Joe Milton are the two most seasoned of the group, but former top-100 prospect Harrison Bailey is also back for his second season with the program after appearing in six games last season. Third-year sophomore Brian Maurer also brings 12 appearances to the mix.
Salter showed his promise as a senior in the Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill, Texas, by leading Cedar Hill High School to a state title game appearance last season. His dismissal is just the latest challenge that Heupel will face at Tennessee after three seasons as the coach at UCF.
The Volunteers parted with Heupel's predecessor, Jeremy Pruitt, following a 3-7 season amid allegations that Pruitt's program disregarded NCAA recruiting rules. An NCAA investigation into those allegations could still result in penalties for the program. Additionally, the program saw several key players transfer out among the coaching transition, including top rushers Eric Gray (Oklahoma) and Ty Chandler (North Carolina). Key offensive lineman Wanya Morris and former top-100 defensive back prospect Key Lawrence also transferred to Oklahoma while several of the program's 2021 signees received releases from their letters of intent.