There have been rumors floating around for several days that Tennessee Volunteers' running back Davante Bourque was dealing with personal issues and wasn't with the team. As each day passes, the likelihood that Bourque dons an orange jersey on August 31 dwindles.
Bourque was recruited as a 4-star athlete out of Louisiana and signed with Tennessee in February. By all accounts, he was being groomed by coach Jay Graham as a running back. The hopes were high for rising freshman.
According to Brent Hubbs of Volquest.com, Bourque's recent departure from fall camp was abrupt:
While no one will say it officially, it certainly looks like the Devante Bourque era is over at Tennessee. Bourque just up and disappeared on Thursday before the team left for Milligan.
Tennessee has tried on multiple, multiple occasions to reach Bourque and talk to him, but he has not been willing to talk to the Vol staff. There has been no indication that he can or will be talked into returning.
Bourque practiced with the team, told teammates he was going to get his stuff and then bolted Knoxville, allegedly on a Greyhound bus. In fact, we're told Bourque's dorm room still contains many of his personal belongings.
This confirms fears that Bourque's turbulent recruitment over the winter hinted at a troubled college career. While no one knows for sure why he is having second thoughts, there's no doubt that all Vol fans wish the best for him.
But what do we do now at running back?
Optimists had Bourque receiving serious playing time by October, the SEC stretch run. I think that prediction was a bit too much, but he certainly would've fought Raijon Neal and others for minutes when Marlin Lane was resting.
Indeed, it appears as though Neal, the running back-turned-wide receiver-turned-running back again, is going to have a big say in how the rushing attack improves this fall, and, therefore, a big say on how the season goes.
Neal's solid physique is well-documented, but we've yet to see him put it all together for an entire year. This will have to be that year if Bourque is indeed gone for good.
Bourque's fellow 2012 running back signees, Quenshaun Watson and Alden Hill, are now the future of the position for the Vols. They are polar opposites with Watson being a small scatback and Hill being a big bruiser. They could be a great one-two punch, but now they'll have to be.
Marlin Lane still figures to be the featured back this season, but there's one less guy to turn to if he struggles early on. Clearly, Bourque's likely departure is a tough hit for Tennessee in a crucial year for the program.