KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee players met with the media on Tuesday and gave measured responses when each was asked about the departure of junior tailback Jalen Hurd.
“He just parted ways with us and we wish him the best,” said Vols defensive end Derek Barnett, who has become recognized as the leader of the defense with captains Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton sidelined by injuries.
“That’s just one player, so it’s not going to ruin the team,” Barnett said. “We had a good work day yesterday, and we’re excited to play this week. We had a team meeting and we settled everything, so I feel like everyone is past it.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones told the media on Monday that Hurd had decided to transfer.
The team learned that Hurd would be leaving the program after a team meeting held on Sunday night.
“I guess we were surprised,” Offensive tackle Brett Kendrick said. “Jalen did all he could do for us when he was here. Obviously, he was huge for us last year and the start of this year, but we’ll move on with the guys we have.”
That was the attitude of senior captain and quarterback Josh Dobbs, too.
“We wish him the best for sure, it was obviously upsetting, but then my focus is on the guys that are here,” Dobbs said. “Guys that are here to make an impact on us finishing the season strong.”
Tennessee State coach Rod Reed told the Tennessean on Tuesday that if Hurd were interested to transferring to his FCS school, the Tigers would be interested in talking to him.
Hurd attended Beech High School in Hendersonville, just outside of Nashville where Tennessee State is located.
Hurd, a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, did not seem to be an ideal fit for the shotgun spread offense used by Tennessee, and his rushing numbers plummeted this season.
Hurd was averaging 3.7 yards per carry this season with 21 carries for 44 yards in his final two games at Tennessee.
The Vols’ high attrition this season has been well-documented.
Hurd is the second offensive player who started in the season opener to leave the team, joining receiver Preston Williams.
Tennessee dismissed starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien for an undisclosed violation of team rules, and the two defensive tackles who replaced him in the starting lineup — Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle — have also been lost to season-ending injuries.
Preseason All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin suffered an injury that ended his season in September, as did his backup, Quart’e Sapp.
Tennessee suffered a 24-21 loss to South Carolina last Saturday playing without three starting defensive backs, as All-SEC cornerback Cam Sutton, cornerback Malik Foreman and safety Micah Abernathy were all shelved with injuries.
Tailback Alvin Kamara, the team’s all-purpose yardage leader, also remained sidelined with an injured knee.