Tennessee overachieved along the defensive line last season despite the group being perceived during the preseason as one of the Vols’ biggest weaknesses. Throughout the season, the Vols consistently improved at the position, and by the end of the year, the defensive line was a massive strength for Tennessee. Now the Vols are looking to add even more depth to the position group, as they are pursuing Fabien Lovett, a 6’4’’ 314 pound defensive lineman who entered his name into the transfer portal after a dispute with the Bulldogs’ newly hired head coach, Mike Leach.
The Vols will lose seven defensive linemen — none of which are starters — to graduation this year, and Lovett would bring a sense of security to the position in order to make up for the loss of depth. If Lovett were to join the Vols’ roster, he would be coached by Jimmy Brumbaugh, the newly hired defensive line coach who replaced Tracy Rocker — who left for the same position at South Carolina after Tennessee declined to renew his contract in January.
Lovett was a member of the class of 2018, and committed to the Bulldogs on February 7th of the year. He was listed by 247Sports as the 7th best player in the State of Mississippi and the 18th best player at his position. 247Sports also gave him an overall ranking of 0.8842, which is good enough for a 3-star rating. He attended Olive Branch High School and quickly established a reputation for hard hits.
Lovett’s decision to enter the transfer portal came after Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach tweeted an image of an elderly woman knitting a noose, with the caption, “After two weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf.” After several Mississippi State players, including Lovett, voiced their discomfort with the tweet, Leach deleted it and apologized. “I sincerely regret if my choice of images in my tweets were found offensive,” said the first year Mississippi State head coach. “I had no intention of offending anyone.”
New Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach had to delete this tweet & apologize after he thought this was funny.. pic.twitter.com/IkFwAkizH7
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) April 3, 2020
“I didn’t feel comfortable with my son being down there with a guy like that from a leadership standpoint, that you can just throw anything out there,” said the father of the former Bulldogs defensive lineman. “I feel if he can do it, the kids will feel like they can do it.”
Lovett then voiced which schools he was interested in visiting during an interview with 247Sports. “Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee, and Michigan hopefully,” said the talented defensive lineman. “I’ve just got to wait until all this Corona(virus) stuff flies over. But they have been calling me on Facetime and showing me their facilities.” Lovett went on to say his phone was “on fire” and that a multitude of schools were reaching out to him about a potential visit.
Lovett played in 11 of the Bulldogs’ 12 match-ups last season and had a career high four tackles against Tennessee last year, which could have been big in Jeremy Pruitt’s decision to recruit the defensive lineman. No timetable has been set regarding a potential commitment due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.