After coaching change, Tennessee finally releases top 2021 signee from his letter of intent

Nick Bromberg
·3 min read

Dylan Brooks is no longer going to be a member of Tennessee's 2021 class.

The four-star defensive end has been released from his letter of intent with the Volunteers according to multiple reports. Brooks is the top member of Tennessee's signing class. He is the No. 125 prospect in the country according to Rivals and the No. 8 strongside defensive end.

Brooks signed with Tennessee in December while Jeremy Pruitt was still the Vols' coach. Since then, Tennessee has fired Pruitt after alleged recruiting violations and hired UCF coach Josh Heupel to take his place. Heupel's hire was made by new UT athletic director Danny White. UT hired White after former athletic director Phillip Fulmer announced he was stepping down at the time of Pruitt's firing.

The move to release Brooks from his letter of intent comes after Brooks went public with Tennessee's refusal to budge on his commitment. And he's the second player that Tennessee has released from his letter of intent this week. The Volunteers also let four-star running back Cody Brown out of his letter of intent.

Brooks said Tennessee was refusing to let him go

Brooks asked Tennessee to be released from his letter of intent days after Pruitt was fired in January. He said earlier this week that he hadn't heard from Tennessee after his request and was still waiting to see if he could find another school.

“They have not called me one single time,” Brooks' high school coach Larry Strain told Al.com this week. “Isn’t that ironic? I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Obviously, this particular situation is different, but I really don’t know anything other than what I’m hearing through Dylan.”

A report emerged early Friday from a radio station in Birmingham that Brooks would be allowed to get out of his letter of intent under the condition that he didn't sign with another SEC school. Hours later, Rivals' Volquest.com was one of the outlets that reported that Brooks was free to sign with any school. Since National Signing Day has passed, players are free to sign anytime they'd like. 

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The perils of the early signing period

College football's relatively new December early signing period allows players who have been verbally committed to their schools for a while to sign letters of intent before their spring semesters and officially lock in their college choices. But Brooks' situation also shows how the early signing period isn't perfect.

Brooks was just one of myriad Tennessee players in the class of 2021 who had signed with the school in December while Pruitt was still the team's coach. And those signatures locked them into letters of intent with Tennessee. Had they stayed verbally committed through February, they would be free to choose their new school after Pruitt's departure and not rely on Tennessee to release them from their commitments.

That works out far better for Tennessee than it does for the players who signed. While releasing a player from his letter of intent is clearly the right thing to do if that player no longer wants to stay with a school after a coaching change, a school is free to act like Tennessee did with Brooks.

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