Fewer people leave Tennessee football on a lower note than Jeremy Banks. On Christmas Eve, Banks announced on Instagram he would opt out of the Vols’ Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers and enter the 2023 NFL Draft.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with opting out and entering the draft. You have to do what’s best for your future. However, the timing of this decision is questionable.
Why would Banks do this on Christmas Eve? Everybody is home spending time with family, and nobody is really trying to work or follow any news at the moment. It’s almost as if Banks did this to fly under the radar.
Well, given the way Tennessee football ended its season and the way he is blamed for it, that may have been exactly what he did. Is there a chance he wants out of Rocky Top as quickly as possible?
Remember, Josh Heupel effectively confirmed, by not denying, that Banks was in a fight with Hendon Hooker and missed their matchup at the South Carolina Gamecocks as a result. UT lost that game 63-38.
Vol Nation has fully sided with Hooker and not just because he was the bigger star. Anybody who follows the past of both players knows that Banks is the one more likely to be at fault.
Still, it’s pretty clear that Tennessee football was in dire straits without Banks on defense. Tim Banks couldn’t run the same stunts he usually does at linebacker to disguise the weaknesses in the secondary, and it proved costly.
As a result, much of Rocky Top has blamed Banks for costing them a spot at the College Football Playoff. Given the hazy details surrounding that week, they may not be wrong.
All of this combined with Banks taking part in Senior Day festivities made it pretty obvious he would probably leave for the NFL Draft. There’s a reason Heupel targeted BYU Cougars transfer linebacker Keenan Pili.
Still, you have to announce at some point your decision to leave. If you want to keep that as under the radar as possible, there’s no better time to announce it than the night of Christmas Eve.
Banks revealed his decision after 10 p.m. ET that night. Who would be wasting their holiday crafting that announcement? It makes no sense unless you want to leave quietly.
Honestly, it’s understandable why Banks would want to leave Tennessee football quietly. However, nothing can change the narrative that will remain about him and what happened with the Vols this year.
Also, the decision is cowardly. Perhaps Banks could own what happened and try to atone for it by playing in the Orange Bowl, or maybe he could just man up and say this decision is best for him at a different time.
Every other Vol who has made his decision is receiving no smoke for it. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman are opting out. Darnell Wright and Byron Young are entering the draft but playing in the Orange Bowl. All of their decisions are being respected.
Part of the respect for those decisions is that they manned up and made the announcement when people would listen. The other part of the respect is that they were all valuable to the program, and none of them were accused of tearing it apart.
Nobody can say the Vols were better off without Banks in 2022. That was clear at South Carolina. At the same time, his involvement in a fight that resulted in him abandoning his team when they needed him is unforgivable to many.
When it comes to his NFL Draft prospects, Banks has potential as a run-stopper at 6’1″ 224 pounds. However, he brings questions in coverage, and this past season will raise questions about him as a teammate.
To be fair, at the same time, this is an issue for Tennessee football against Clemson. Banks is a crucial part of this year’s team, and not having him really limits the Vols’ defense.
Assuming Pili and the collection of freshman linebackers can fix that issue, most people on Rocky Top will probably say good riddance to Banks. There’s a lot of work to do at that position, but there is potential.