Of the 10 transfers Tennessee football added this offseason, including two junior college players and eight players they picked up from the portal, only two of them were highly touted players on the recruiting trail. Josh Heupel went more for specific needs than hype this year.
Ohio State Buckeyes transfer defensive back Andre Turrentine was an unanimous four-star in 2021, and USC Trojans transfer wide receiver Bru McCoy was an unanimous five-star in 2019. However, Will Backus of 247Sports named Turrentine as the Vols’ most important transfer.
That comes despite Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets transfer Wesley Walker filling the same need at defensive back and actually having significant playing experience over the past two years. Here’s Backus’ reasoning for Turrentine Tennessee football’s most important transfer.
Tennessee is looking to take a big leap entering its second season under Josh Heupel. To do so, it desperately needs to shore up the defense. Adding former Ohio State safety Turrentine accomplishes a few tasks. First, Turrentine, who will likely play a nickel for the Vols, replaces one of their biggest defensive losses in Theo Jackson. Second, he frees up other players in the secondary, like safety Trevon Flowers and outside corner Brandon Turnage, to move back to their natural positions after working at nickel to try and replace Jackson.
What Backus misses with that reasoning is the Vols, despite having needs in the secondary, also have players to replace them. Brandon Turnage was SEC Defensive Player of the Week last season for them in his one start at nickel.
As a result, Turrentine is still likely to compete for a backup role. His best shot is to become a starter at cornerback with Alontae Taylor gone, but he’s got to compete with Kamal Hadden and Warren Burrell. Let’s not forget that Walker could be Turnage’s main competition too.
Simply put, while Turrentine fills a need and comes highly touted, he also is still joining a position with lots of competition. McCoy is joining a position with lots of competition as well at receiver, but he comes with a lot more hype.
Remember, Tennessee football has to replace two wide receivers, the slot position that was held by Velus Jones Jr. and the No. 2 wideout spot opposite Cedric Tillman that was held by JaVonta Payton, which McCoy will be gunning for. Some of his competition could move into that slot role.
Also, McCoy has experience playing at the college level. In 2020, despite being a reserve, he caught 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, he has struggled to see the field after already transferring from the Texas Longhorns and missing 2021 due to an off-the-field issue, but the potential is there.
Taking all of this into account, McCoy has more hype than Turrentine, he has more experience than Turrentine at this level, and he’s going to a position with as great of a need and no more competition than Turrentine is. He’s one guy Vol fans expect to start immediately.
You can bring up the need for the Vols to upgrade on defense, but that’s overrated. Heupel’s system will create situations in which UT gives up lots of points, and there’s no guarantee Turrentine is the best option to slow that down.
None of this is to say Turrentine wasn’t a huge pickup for Tennessee football. In terms of the future, he may be more important. This year, though, there is clearly more hype behind McCoy, and Heupel needs a guy like McCoy to make sure his offense stays elite.