The first day of Bearcats fall practice opened with a disappointing nugget of news from coach Butch Jones. Upon meeting with the media he announced that WR Kenbrell Thompkins, the Bearcats transfer from the University of Tennessee would not be eligible this season, but will have two years of eligibility beginning in 2011.
Thompkins signed a National Letter of Intent with UT and requested a release from it upon his decision to join the Bearcats. Maggie McKinley, the UC Assistant AD for Compliance, explains the situation as such:
"Kenbrell requested a release from his NLI and Tennessee denied his request. The provisions of the NLI state that if a student does not fulfill the terms of the NLI and the school does not release the student from the NLI, the student is required to serve a year in residency at their next institution and loses a season of eligibility. This meant that Kenbrell came to UC with only one season of eligibility and would be required to sit the 2010 season.
"The NLI Appeal Committee partially granted Kenbrell's appeal to be released from his NLI. In their decision they upheld the requirement that he serve a year in residency prior to representing the institution in competition but granted relief from the standard penalty of losing a season of competition for not satisfying the terms of the NLI agreement with Tennessee. He will now have two years of eligibility to represent UC instead of just one."
Coach Jones wouldn't say he was surprised by the result, but you have to imagine he was rooting hard for it to go the other way.
"I didn't know what to expect coming in," Jones said. "I think he has done a great job with how he handled the situation and preparing for it."
On the surface, for this year's version of the Bearcats, it's a disappointing blow. Thompkins allowed depth for an offense that will wing it all around the yard.
In talking with WR coach T.J. Weist for my receivers position analysis he admitted that Thompkins had been as physical of a reciever as there was on the team and he could be a tremendous asset blocking downfield.
Here is the WR position analysis, which also breaks down what Thompkins' role would have been and those now filling in behind him.
Looking deeper, this could be the best thing for UC in the long run. Cracking the starting lineup this year was only going to happen for Thompkins should Binns or Hazelton suffer an injury. So, in theory, having him around for two more years in which he can be a primary target -- including a likely role as a No. 1 outside WR for Zach Collaros' senior season is pretty ideal.
The pros and cons for Thompkins are apparent, but what do we make of those filling in behind him this season.
Step on up Dyjuan Lewis. The super freshman with all the athletic ability will earn his chance to back up Binns and Hazelton. Lewis is one of the best recruits this program has landed and you have to think he will be the guy counted on to make explosive plays in Thompkins' absence.
Also, Marcus Barnett will be relied upon more. Though, playing more in the slot, the kid with all the potential as a freshman who never could reach the peak that began his career, will earn a chance to end it as it began. The experience he brings would make him a favorite to step in and take some of those catches that Thompkins might have, if only because that is one fewer producer on the roster.
Of course, on the first day of fall practice, it's hard to take anything but optimism from Nippert Stadium.
"I think it hurts a little bit in the competiiton end of it and the depth end of it," Jones said, "but I am also excited for the future of the program that we have two years of eligiblity with him at that position and have a player of his caliber to sit and wait on his opportunity."