Tennessee's offense is expected to be one of the most prolific in college football under second-year coach Josh Heupel and veteran quarterback Hendon Hooker. However, the status of one of Hooker's top potential targets remains in limbo. Bru McCoy, who transferred from USC in the offseason, remains ineligible after leaving the Trojans following a suspension that prevented him from seeing the field in 2021.
With less than two weeks until the start of the Volunteers' season, it appears McCoy's status is solely up to the NCAA. In a statement released Sunday evening, USC said it has complied with all of Tennessee's requests regarding the redshirt junior's eligibility.
"USC has -- consistently with NCAA rules -- promptly and accurately responded to all requests from the University of Tennessee related to the eligibility of Bru McCoy," the university said. "At no point since Bru entered the transfer portal in January have we objected to him being made immediately eligible to play at Tennessee. The issue of Bru's eligibility ultimately rests with the NCAA, and we wish him the very best."
The controversy over McCoy's status has been brewing as fall camp has progressed with Tennessee essentially sitting in a holding pattern.
"Our administration has done everything that they possibility can," Heupel said. "They've been great throughout the entire process from the very beginning. They're still working as hard as they can to give him the opportunity to play. I don't have an answer on that. There are some things that are out of my control, Bru's control and our administration's control in this process. Everybody on our side is working as hard as they possibility can to make sure that we come to a resolution as quickly as possible and give the kid an opportunity to go play."
Further complicating matters is the fact that McCoy is on his third team since graduating from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, as the No. 9 overall prospect in the Class of 2019. He enrolled early at USC but transferred to Texas before participating in practice, only to transfer back to USC after the Longhorns wrapped up their spring practice sessions. He had 21 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns in six games during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season.
An arrest for suspicion of felony intimate partner violence in July of 2021 led to a season-long suspension for McCoy, who was also barred from campus during a Title IX investigation. However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office later declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence, and USC dropped its Title IX complaint in February.
McCoy has been practicing with the Vols while awaiting a ruling from the NCAA, and his status could be a massive swing for the offense. Cedric Tillman is back after a 1,000-yard receiving year, but Velus Jones and JaVonta Payton moved on after successful 2021 seasons. McCoy and Tillman are two of the three likely starters on the outside along with sophomore Jalin Hyatt. To compound matters, Heupel runs a hurry-up offense that demands depth across the board -- but especially at the offensive skill positions.