Former 5-star prospect Michael Dyer lived the dream of every freshman football player. During his first season at Auburn, Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns, breaking Auburn's freshman single season rushing record previously held by Bo Jackson.
His accolades include first-team All-SEC, freshman All-SEC, and Freshman All-American nods for the 2010 season. Dyer capped off his impressive first year at Auburn with a 22-carry, 143-yard performance in the BCS National Championship Game, earning him MVP honors as Auburn defeated Oregon 22-19.
Dyer improved on his numbers in 2011, rushing for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns on 242 carries. But Dyer's career at Auburn would end as quickly as it began. Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik suspended Dyer indefinitely, before granting his release from the team in 2012.
Dyer transfered to Arkansas State, but was again dismissed due to a speeding violation involving possession of a handgun and a substance believed to be marijuana.
As it stands, Dyer is currently enrolled at Arkansas Baptist College and is working toward an Associate's Degree before regaining eligibility for the 2013 NCAA season. Dyer claims that he has learned from his mistakes. However, teams may still see red flags when viewing the former Auburn standout.
Enter the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Vols enter their first season under head coach Butch Jones. Fans aren't sure what to make of Jones' first recruiting class, but the one thing most can agree on is the need for depth at the running back position.
Should Tennessee take a chance on Dyer?
Rajion Neal showed signs of greatness last season, despite running out of what many consider an "air raid" offensive scheme. Marlon Lane also showed potential, but has had difficult time staying healthy for an entire season during his time in Knoxville.
After Lane, the depth chart for Tennessee running backs isn't much to write home about. Devrin Young encompasses speed, but lacks size with a 5'8", 172 lb frame.
The rest of Tennessee's backs have seen limited to no playing time. This will be a major problem for Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian as the Vols switch to a more run-oriented offense.
With Dyer, the Vols can place one of the best running backs in the SEC behind an offensive line that returns four of their five starters from the previous season. Dyer's talent has never been the question, rather is he a changed man?
How much has Michael Dyer actually learned from his past mistakes? Is he a humbled and smarter person due to his time away from football?
From a physical standpoint, the question must be asked: At 5'9" 210, is he still in shape to be an elite SEC running back?
Personally, I believe Dyer should at least be an option for the Vols to consider if he shows interest. This is a situation where both sides may need each other.
Dyer still has two years left of NCAA eligibility and can accomplish his dream of playing professional football if he succeeds in the right situation. Tennessee is in need of a strong running game and an elite back to return to SEC dominance.
Butch Jones needs to make a splash. Taking a chance on Dyer could prove to be the wrong move, but the reward would definitely be worth the risk if he plays to his full potential.
A player of Dyer's caliber in Tennessee's offense would create an instant turnaround. While at Cincinnati, Jones and Bajakian have seen great results from running backs who all lacked the talent and potential of Michael Dyer.
Adding to the team's need for a back, UT has a great offensive line, but faces seemingly unaddressed questions in their passing game.
Tennessee lost their starting quarterback, wide receivers and tight end from last season. An elite SEC running back would give the Vols an immediate jump start.
If Dyer can prove he is a mature and changed person, Tennessee must roll the dice and take a chance on this once great player.