Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Izauea Lanier has been ruled ineligible for the entire 2012 season. He and Prentiss Waggner were going to make a formidable cornerback duo, but now the Vols have an open spot on the starting defensive lineup.
So who could fill it?
The battle for the job throughout summer workouts and fall practice will be one to follow for the Vols. In what has become a strong back seven (or eight in the 3-4 defense), there suddenly stands a wide-open position.
Here are the five guys that I think are the leading candidates.
Justin Coleman's freshman year as a Vol wasn't what everyone was hoping for. He was a solid player, but we never saw any big plays from him, and his speed was never put on showcase.
He played in all 12 games in 2011, but only defended two passes and made just 10 tackles, five of which were during the Arkansas blowout. The former Rivals250 player needs to improve if he wants to live up to his expectations.
Reports are that he had a good spring in Knoxville. If he parlay that into a good return in the fall, Coleman might get the nod to fill in for Izauea Lanier.
After a strong freshman year in 2010, Nashville native Eric Gordon took a step back last season. Of course, all is forgiven when you win the game over the in-state rivals.
Gordon was the second-rated player in the state of Tennessee when he came out of high school, boasting offers from Oklahoma, Alabama and South Carolina.
In limited playing time last year, he still managed two interceptions and five tackles for a loss. If he wins the position battle, more playing time could mean a big year for Gordon.
Where Coleman and Gordon beat Marsalis Teague in flair and big-play ability, he beats them in experience.
Entering his senior year on Rocky Top, Teague has simply not been the kind of defensive back that Tennessee hoped for when he made the switch from wide receiver after his freshman year. Still, the Henry County product is a steady force on the team.
His lack of speed, especially compared to his fellow defensive backs, will probably leave him without the job, but if Derek Dooley is looking for another senior on a young defense, he might go with Teague early.
The Volunteers brought in two highly talented defensive backs during the 2012 recruiting season. Derek Dooley hasn't been able to convert players in wins yet, but his recruiting continues to impress.
Deion Bonner missed half of his senior season in high school for stealing items from the Georgia Bulldogs' lockers during a recruiting visit. While I don't condone stealing, this story will be just too juicy if Bonner can "steal" a pass against Georgia this year.
In just half a season, Bonner registered 53 tackles and five interceptions. Had he played the full year, Bonner would've been ranked even higher among the nation's best defensive backs.
LaDarrell McNeil comes in with many accolades from high school, not the least of which is incredible size and speed. At 6'2", McNeil would be a very tall replacement at cornerback. But if he can keep up with SEC wide receivers, he'd be electric.