While leaving the door open for a return to the school, 5-star linebacker Terrence Lewis announced Monday he's decommitting from Tennessee.
"I need these next couple weeks to explore my options to make sure I make the best decision for my future," Lewis wrote.
TerrEnce Not TerrAnce🦦 @Notoriou2__
I would like to take the time out to announce that I’ll be de-committing from The University of Tennessee. There’s no love lost they’re still my top school as of now but I need these next couple weeks to explore my options to make sure I make the best decision for my future. -2️⃣
The Opa Locka, Florida, native is the No. 17 overall player and No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2021 class, per 247Sports' composite rankings.
The Volunteers remain in play, but this is clearly a concerning development for head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff ahead of the early signing period, which begins Dec. 16.
"It's unclear who all Lewis will consider moving forward, but one school to keep an eye on is nearby Miami as Lewis has spent time in Coral Gables before," 247Sports' Andrew Ivins wrote. "Lewis also told 247Sports a few months ago that he has heard from the coaching staffs at both LSU and Mississippi State since he committed to the Volunteers."
Correlation doesn't equal causation, but it's hard not to connect Lewis' decommitment from how poorly Tennessee has fared in 2020.
The Vols opened the season 2-0, but a 44-21 defeat to Georgia on Oct. 10 triggered a five-game losing streak. Considering the team finishes with No. 6 Florida and No. 5 Texas A&M, a two-win campaign is on the table for Tennessee.
Lewis' announcement also comes four days after Damarius McGhee said he was rescinding his commitment to the Vols to weigh all of his opportunities. McGhee is the No. 14 cornerback in 2021, per 247Sports' composite rankings.
Pruitt's reputation as a recruiter at Alabama preceded him when he took the Tennessee job. Since his arrival, the Vols finished 21st, 13th and 10th in 247Sports' composite team rankings. They're still on pace to be 13th in 2021 despite losing Lewis and McGhee.
The question is whether those decommitments signal the start of diminishing returns for Pruitt on the recruiting trail. At a certain point, a sales pitch for a program that last reached 10 wins in 2007 is tough to make in front of blue-chip recruits.
Tennessee announced in September it signed Pruitt to an extension through 2025. That deal may be starting to look regrettable and saddles the school with a sizable buyout if it wants to jettison its coach anytime soon.