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Tennessee officially releases Dylan Brooks from NLI

He was Tennessee’s highest ranked player from the 2021 class.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 13 Tennessee Orange & White Game Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As expected, Josh Heupel’s staff couldn’t salvage a relationship with top 100 pass rusher Dylan Brooks. The four-star edge prospect was Tennessee’s highest-rated signature in the 2021 class, but has been trying to get out of that early signature since Jeremy Pruitt was fired last month.

Today, per 247Sports and others, Tennessee has granted that wish.

Brooks stands in at 6-5, 250 pounds and could have helped Tennessee from day one. The Volunteers are looking to replace production from Kivon Bennett and Deandre Johnson, and Brooks was a natural fit at the spot. However, with the staff that recruited him in place, Brooks will now look to land elsewhere.

Per 247Sports’ rankings, Brooks was the 76th overall prospect in the class — the sixth ranked weakside defensive end prospect. He is now the second 2021 signee to request his release, joining four-star running back Cody Brown.

Tennessee still has two on-field coaching role remaining, but head coach Josh Heupel at least now has a direction defensively. Tim Banks comes over from Penn State to be his defensive coordinator, while SEC veterans Willie Martinez and Rodney Garner will handle positional duties. Clearly those hires weren’t enough to convince Brooks.

Following the loss of Brooks and Brown, Tennessee now holds the 19th ranked class for the 2021 cycle — not bad, all things considered.

One of the key questions for Tim Banks to figure out now is the pass rush. Tyler Baron returns as an obvious answer, along with Roman Harrison. They’ll have to figure out which guys fit on the edge with this current roster, something that could be tricky considering Pruitt’s interchangeable linebackers. If Tennessee attacks the transfer portal post-spring, adding a pass rusher for some depth would make a lot of sense.