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Outside linebacker Deandre Johnson enters transfer portal

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One of Tennessee’s leading pass rushers wants to check out greener pastures.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Indiana v Tennessee Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A fairly significant blow was dealt to Tennessee’s football program on Tuesday. A report by The Athletic says that outside linebacker Deandre Johnson has entered the transfer portal.

Johnson came to Knoxville as a project defensive end out of Miami, Florida. He was ranked outside the top-700, but still received interest from multiple SEC programs.

His career with Tennessee was a slow progress. He received minimal playtime in 2017, before steadily making his way into the rotation in 2018. His junior season in 2019 is when he really started to assert himself. Johnson grabbed attention even while backing up future NFL draft pick Darrell Taylor. He worked as a lengthy, strong pass rusher who had the tools to make an impact in the league.

Obviously the 2020 season did not go as planned. Despite this, Johnson was able to record 4.5 sacks, tied for first on the team. His opening performance against South Carolina looked especially great with 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. After that, a mix of factors put Johnson as a question mark for the rest of the season.

The transfer is a fairly big loss for the Volunteers. Johnson was one of their only proven outside pass rushers. He had the perfect frame to grow into and become the next Darrell Taylor, and his flashes of potential merited more attention. Instead, after a trainwreck of a season, he’s looking for a different program to spend his final year at.

This development brings up the same questions currently being asked about whether or not Jeremy Pruitt will be retained as Tennessee’s head coach. The amount of transfers in the past two weeks is comparable to that of a firing. Some of these players weren’t backups either—Johnson was a full blown starter. He almost certainly would have started next season too. His decision to transfer should tell us what he thinks about the current staff and program.

Johnson finishes his Tennessee career with 58 tackles, 10 sacks, and five forced fumbles.