Last spring, Tennessee football wide receiver Bru McCoy was a five-star without a college.
The talented prospect was suspended for the 2021 season by Southern Cal after being accused of domestic violence. He was not charged when the alleged victim declined to cooperate with investigators, but he was ordered to pay $40,000 for expenses caused by the alleged abuse and $30,000 to cover her legal fees.
McCoy hit the transfer portal.
It wasn’t the first time. He signed with USC out of high school, transferred to Texas, transferred back to USC, then hit the portal again last year.
McCoy found a home in Knoxville. And he helped Tennessee football post its first 11-win season since 2001, capped by a 31-14 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson.
“It means the world,” said McCoy, who caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown against Clemson. “We put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and heading into this season.”
“It’s just a blessing to see us have success and end the season like this, on a good note.”
It would have ended on a better note, but the Vols lost 63-38 at South Carolina in Game 11, ruining any chances of making the College Football Playoff for the first time.
“It was kind of a bitter taste after the South Carolina loss,” McCoy said. “We had a chip on our shoulder and took advantage of the opportunity.”
The wide receiver corps took advantage of Tennessee football not having two of its top wideouts in the Orange Bowl. Jalin Hyatt, a first-team All-American, opted out to focus on the NFL draft. Cedric Tillman opted out due to injury (ankle).
That left McCoy, Ramel Keyton and Squirrel White as the primary receivers. And they flourished.
White, the 160-pounder with squirrel-like quickness, caught nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Keyton had four catches for 76 yards and a 46-yard score.
“Extremely proud (of the wideouts),” McCoy said. “It’s a testament to how well we’re coached and how hard we work each and every day. We all go to practice every day like we’re all starters.”
“So when the opportunity presents itself, we can take advantage.”
White, in particular, caught McCoy’s eye.
“Oh my goodness,” McCoy said of White. “The fastest person I’ve been around. The way he can put his foot in the ground is unbelievable. He’s an incredible player. I can’t want to see what he does in the future.”
The future for McCoy was uncertain until he committed to Tennessee and enrolled in May 2022. He was granted a waiver by the NCAA on Aug. 26 after spending three years at USC.
He made one of the biggest catches of the season, a 27-yarder with two seconds left to set up a game-winning field goal against Alabama for the Vols’ first win over the Crimson Tide since 2006.
McCoy, a physical 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, caught 52 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns.
His impact was also felt as a blocker on the perimeter.
McCoy returns next season as Tennessee’s leading receiver.
He’ll be joined by White and Keyton to form one of the SEC’s best trios.
For McCoy, it’s about opportunity after a tumultuous time at USC.
He took advantage when Tennessee football offered.
And he took advantage in the Orange Bowl.