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Tennessee Football DB Doneiko Slaughter in transfer portal could be a good sign for Vols

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Defensive back play is already a major concern for Tennessee Football, so it’s hard to envision them benefitting from losing a utility player in that rotation. However, the loss of Doneiko Slaughter to the transfer portal could be a sign of just that for the Vols.

Slaughter plans to enter the portal with one year of eligibility remaining, Matt Zenitz of 247Sports reported. He played four years with the Vols, appearing in 43 games total and starting many of them. Looking at it from the surface, it seems like the Vols lost a valuable everyday utility defensive back.

On the other hand, Slaughter making this move makes little sense given the amount of playing time he would seem about to receive. Tennessee Football is losing Kamal Hadden and Gabe Jeudy-Lally to graduation, and Warren Burrell and Brandon Turnage have also entered the portal. As a result, if he stayed, he’d seem like the feature cornerback.

Why, then, would he leave? In fact, why would all three leave? You could maybe suggest they were tired playing in a scheme more geared toward offense and wanted to play for a school in which they would thrive, but none of them would start for a Kirby Smart or even Brent Venables.

Many fans may analyze the rumors that UT defensive backs coach Willie Martinez is done after this year as well. However, Tim Banks specializes in coaching the secondary, so not much would change with Martinez gone. That’s also speculation, so it just seems too unlikely altogether.

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A much more likely reason they all left, including Slaughter, is the improved talent that is expected to generate too much competition for playing time. That includes players on the roster and players who could be headed to UT in the future, either via the transfer portal or the recruiting trail.

The Vols added two cornerbacks with extremely high ceilings in their 2023 recruiting class, Rickey Gibson III and Jordan Matthews. If Slaughter, Turnage and Burrell both entered the portal, it’s possible they saw those two players coming and being impossible to beat out.

Then there’s the transfer portal from the Vols’ end. It’s possible that all three cornerbacks made this move because they see who Heupel is about to get. After all, UT has. been pretty active early on in the portal, and while cornerback hasn’t been a topic of conversation, it’s hard to see that being ignored.

Finally, there’s this year’s recruiting class. Heupel isn’t done, and Boo Carter is already a member. He is looking like an elite prospect in the secondary, even if he is a safety, and this is the biggest sign that he isn’t flipping his commitment. Kaleb Beasley, Marcus Goree Jr. and Edrees Farooq are also part of this class.

Simply put, the talent seems a lot better. We know Slaughter didn’t have a chance to play at nickel, as he was awful in that role filling in for Tamarion McDonald this past year, so even if McDonald goes, that wasn’t a spot for him. Rising talent at cornerback, though, is a completely different situation.

If you think this wave of transfers is just about going to greener pastures, consider Tennessee Football 2023 commitment Jack Luttrell. He wouldn’t leave after a year based on things that have happened given how young he is and his development potential. It’s all about the improved talent, so Vol fans should be happy.

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