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Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson declares for 2021 NFL Draft

Thompson is moving on.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee officially has a huge void to fill on the defensive side of the ball in 2021. Standout cornerback Bryce Thompson has declared for the NFL Draft, forgoing his senior season as a Vol.

Thompson announced the move on Tuesday morning via Instagram.

“First — I would like to thank God for all he has done for me during my football career.

“Second, I would like to thank Coach Pruitt and Coach Ansley, the entire coaching staff, the training and equipment staff for giving me the opportunity to display my passions on the field and giving me a place I can call home.

“To my mom, I love you and truly appreciate everything you have done for me on my journey called life. I love you dearly, and wouldn’t be the man I am today without you.

“To my teammates, thank you for a brotherhood and bond that can never be broken. So many great memories with you guys and love you all from the bottom of my heart.

“To my family and friends, thank you for the support and the time to come see me play.

“I’d also like to extend a special big thank you to the essential workers and First Responders, for working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy in this unprecedented time during this pandemic.

“With that being said, after talking to my family and coaches, I have decided to forgo my senior year and declare for the 2021 NFL draft. Words can’t describe how honored I am to fulfill my lifelong dream, and I am ready for the challenge.

“I will forever be a Volunteer and am honored to have been a part of this team. I love you Vol Nation and can’t thank you enough for what you guys have done for me and my family.”

Thompson signed late as a part of Jeremy Pruitt’s first class at Tennessee. The four-star athlete was immediately placed at cornerback, where he stayed for his entire career. During that time, Thompson was far and away Tennessee’s best option at corner, filling a huge need at the time.

The South Carolina native finishes his college career with eight interceptions, two coming in 2020. He holds the Tennessee single-game record for interceptions in a game, snagging three against UAB in 2019.

Thompson is listed at 5-11, 190 pounds, and will now go through the NFL Draft process over the next few months. What that process will look like with the ongoing pandemic remains to be seen.

Tennessee is left with Alontae Taylor and Warren Burrell at cornerback. We’re still waiting on a decision from Kenneth George, who could return for a second senior season. At this point, this coaching staff is probably recruiting him hard on that choice. The Volunteers dropped a key commitment from four-star cornerback Damarius McGhee, who flipped to LSU last month. That development looms large right now.

Guys like Key Lawrence or Tyus Fields could become options at cornerback, should they move there full time. That’s something to follow during the spring.

The Volunteers have one projected cornerback in the class right now — three-star athlete Christian Charles. Clearly over the next month ahead of the final signing date, this position will be a major priority. It’s probably a spot where Tennessee will look to the transfer market as well.