The Tennessee Vols haven’t suffered a mass exodus of players so far this offseason like they did a year ago.
But they’ve still lost a few players to the NCAA transfer portal (which is the norm in college football these days).
One of those players is quarterback Harrison Bailey, who actually entered the transfer portal back in October.
Bailey is a former four-star recruit who signed with the Vols during the 2020 recruiting cycle. He was rated by 247Sports as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the nation and the No. 13 player in the state of Georgia.
Bailey saw some action as a true freshman in 2020 under former UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
The Georgia native tossed for 578 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in 2020.
Bailey didn’t see as much action in 2021. He was the third-string option for Tennessee in Josh Heupel’s first season leading the program. The former top-100 recruit only threw seven passes for the Volunteers in 2021 before entering the transfer portal (he completed three of those passes for 16 total yards).
The decision by Bailey to hit the portal wasn’t surprising. When a highly-recruited quarterback doesn’t see action early in their career, they usually hit the portal looking for a situation where they can get on the field faster.
It’s understandable. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the right decision.
And in Bailey’s case, it was probably a mistake.
In-demand quarterbacks don’t sit in the transfer portal very long. They are wined and dined and picked up by a program very quickly.
Bailey, however, is still sitting in the portal. He’s yet to find a home. Probably because he’s looking for a place where he can start immediately. And he likely doesn’t want to go to an FCS program.
The problem for Bailey is that no one is going to promise a rising redshirt sophomore with 594 career passing yards a starting job — at least not a Power-5 program.
Bailey would’ve been better off staying the course at Tennessee. He obviously has talent, but that doesn’t mean he should’ve expected to be an instant starter in college.
A year ago, quarterback Hendon Hooker was an afterthought for the Vols. He was just a player added for depth that had a couple of average seasons at Virginia Tech.
Now he’s a hero in East Tennessee and a darkhorse in the 2022 Heisman Trophy conversation.
Things can change quickly in college football.
Bailey has upside. He just needs more time to develop (he also needs to buy-in to the offense wherever he’s at).
If Bailey would’ve stayed at Tennessee, maybe he takes a big step forward in the spring and overtakes Joe Milton for the primary backup spot (or incoming true freshman Tayven Jackson). At that point, he’d be one play away from being “the guy” for the Vols.
But because he was impatient, Bailey is still searching for a home while other more established quarterbacks have their pick of where they want to go.
The grass isn’t always greener. But unfortunately, our instant-gratification society has infiltrated college football.
Bailey’s journey should serve as a cautionary tale to those looking to hit the transfer portal just because they haven’t seen the field very much early in their career.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports/Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK