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Tennessee football: Jordan Phillips transfer could be about an early enrollee’s elite potential

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On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Tennessee football defensive lineman Jordan Phillips is entering the transfer portal, according to ON3. He will have four years of eligibility remaining.

Phillips played three games as a true freshman last year and had one tackle. The Vols are loaded up front in the middle with Omari Thomas, Kurott Garland, Bryson Eason, Elijah Simmons, Tyre West, Da’Jon Terry and Dominic Bailey all returning.

As a result, a few transfers at defensive tackle is something anybody would expect. However, the timing of Phillips’ decision to transfer is what stands out, and it could be about one Tennessee football early enrollee.

Nathan Robinson, an in-state defensive lineman committed to the 2023 class, arrived on campus last week. A three-star across the board, Robinson stands at 6’5″, and he is already pushing 270 pounds. Tim Banks’ system allows for one smaller lineman in the middle anyway.

Is it possible that Phillips hit the portal because of what Robinson is showing early in practice? If not, why wait so long to enter it when you only have a certain amount of time to land with another team?

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Every other Tennessee football transfer hit the portal at the end of last month or the beginning of this month. Miles Campbell entered Dec. 1. Jimmy Holiday, Jimmy Calloway and Justin Williams-Thomas all entered Nov. 30.

However, Philliips entered Dec. 19, or at least it was reported then that he entered. That means there had to be some new information he wasn’t aware of when the first wave of transfers hit.

Perhaps Tennessee football is going to be even more loaded at defensive tackle next year. Robinson, hailing from Greenbrier, Tenn., north of Nashville in Robertson County, may add more than what they thought.

Most of the Vols’ commitments on the defensive line are at end this year, and Robinson is listed as an end on Rivals and ESPN. However, he is clearly more of a hybrid who could play in the middle.

Tyree Weathersby is the only other commitment to the Vols this year who might have a shot of playing in the middle. Weathersby isn’t an early enrollee taking part in bowl practices, though.

By process of elimination, Robinson’s arrival is the only factor that’s visible right now when looking at reasons for Phillips hitting the portal at this moment. That can only mean good news for Tennessee football.

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