In a three-year span, Vanderbilt linebacker Tristan Strong suffered two season-ending ACL tears.
Yet, personal choice -- not an injury -- led to his departure. On Saturday, after practice and fewer than three weeks before the first game, coach James Franklin confirmed that the outside linebacker had left the Commodores due to personal reasons.
“He’s always part of our team. We love Tristan,” Franklin said. “He’s going to be graduating this year but Tristan just has some personal things that he needs to deal with right now to take care of Tristan.”
He finished his career with 22 tackles, 16 coming over the first four games (all starts) in 2011 before his season end with an ACL injury against South Carolina.
His exit adds to the growing concern for an already thin linebacker corps that will get a huge test on Aug. 30 when South Carolina running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore takes the field.
Starters Archibald Barnes and Chase Garnham return but Garnham is untested at middle linebacker, where he moves over to replace Chris Marve. Karl Butler is also back and should play more of the star position, which is a combination of safety and linebacker and is used in nickel packages.
Five defensive backs might be prevalent early as true freshman Darreon Herring and redshirt freshman Kellen Williams adapt.
“We got good reps by young guys. I feel really good about what they’re doing,” Franklin said. “you still have three veterans returning and we signed a talented group of [four] young guys behind them. It’s going to be interesting to see how this thing plays out. But that’s why we play [linebackers coach] Brent Pry the big bucks.”