One day removed from announcing their new head coach, the Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball 2014 recruiting class took a big hit on Wednesday, as three of UT's signees were either released, or requested to be released, from their National Letter of Intent.
Jordan Cornish and Larry Austin – both three-star recruits according to Rivals – were granted their release by Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall, who was announced as UT's new men's basketball coach on Tuesday, allowing both to re-open their recruitment.
The third signee, CJ Turman – a 6-foot-8 center from Madison, Ga. – requested a release from his letter of intent, but was unable to have it granted before the close of business on Wednesday, per a UT spokesperson.
Phil Cofer – a 6-foot-8 forward from Fayetteville, Ga. – is currently the only remaining signee for the Vols and did not respond after being contacted by The Daily Beacon on Wednesday regarding his status.
"The four guys who were signed by Coach Martin in the early period are all really good players and they seem to be fine young men, but if guys don't want to be here at Tennessee – for whatever reason, whether it's no familiarity with me or the new coaching staff or they just want to explore their options – I'm OK with that," Tyndall told 104.5 The Zone, a Nashville radio station, on Wednesday night.
"I don't want guys to feel like they have to be at Tennessee. It's a privilege to be at Tennessee and no one's more privileged than I am."
Austin, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Springfield, Ill., who was UT's top-ranked commit, was the first to announce his departure and was quickly followed out the door by Jordan Cornish – a 6-foot-4 guard from New Orleans, La.
"After the coach (Tyndall) was announced, we explored our options and just decided that we wanted to go in a different direction," Monique Rew-Cornish, Jordan's mother, told The Daily Beacon.
Prior to his introduction as Tennessee's new coach, Tyndall reached out to Cornish, Austin and Turman to express his desire of the trio to stay committed to the Vols.
"(Tennessee's signees) all seemed to be excited," Tyndall said during his introductory press conference. "I told them how I excited I was to be their coach. I wanted to put their minds at ease with the fact that they are we're not going to not scholarship them. They are not not wanted, in fact, they are desperately wanted. We want them to be part of the program.
"I told them our goals and visions for the program and told them I hope they'll be a part of that."
And while Rew-Cornish said their conversation with Tyndall went "well," it proved to be not enough.
Due to an SEC rule, a player released of his letter of intent isn't able to receive a scholarship from another school within the conference until he has been there for two years, all but guaranteeing that neither of the departing players will play in the SEC.
With Austin, Cornish and Turman moving on, the Vols are now left with five open scholarships on the roster and have until the May 21 deadline to sign any available recruits.
"I won't sign a guy just to fill a spot," Tyndall told 104.5 The Zone. "We are at a great place where we are going to get really great players, especially as we move forward into our first full recruiting class next fall and next spring.
"I'm not going to take a guy just to take a guy.
And while Tyndall stated "he hasn't given up on any of the four previous signees showing up," he has already began preparing to bring in a couple of players to fill some of the spots left void by the three signees' departures.
"I don't know that we would fill all six spots if we did have six spots to give, it's probably too late to do that," said Tyndall when asked about the possibility of having to replace all four scholarships in the case that Cofer decides to leave as well. " We are in the hunt for some really good players here.
"For as late as it is in the season, I'm a little surprised that there are still as many good players out there as there are – not a ton of them – but there are eight to 12 guys that we feel are good enough and we are right there on all of them and hope to bring a couple guys to campus in the next couple of weeks."