Another Tennessee wide receiver appears set to leave the program. Sophomore Walker Merrill, a former in-state standout who played sparingly during the 2022 season, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday morning, sources told GoVols247. The former four-star recruit made most of limited playing time this season, catching eight passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns on just 55 snaps on offense across seven games while also contributing on special teams.
The transfer portal window opened to FBS players on December 5, but remains open for players to enter through January 18. Players don’t have to have transferred to their new schools by then, but do have to enter the portal before the window shuts. Transfers also have a visit window where they can see other schools this week.
Tennessee lost wide receivers Jimmy Calloway and Jimmy Holiday, who was the team’s primary kickoff returner this season, to the portal in December, and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Merrill, who primarily played the slot position as a freshman before shifting outside this season, has followed suit after not playing a snap on offense in the Orange Bowl despite the Vols being shorthanded by opt-outs and portal entries at wideout – starters Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton played every snap and freshman Squirrel White all but three.
Merrill looked poised for a bigger role coming off a strong offseason, but McCoy took over one starting spot after his last-minute clearance by the NCAA after his transfer from Southern California and Keyton stepped up and played well as a fill-in starter with star Cedric Tillman limited to just six games by his ankle injury. Thus the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder played just a bit-part role with 41 of his 55 snaps coming in Tennessee’s easy wins against Ball State, Akron and UT Martin, catching two passes in each game. Merrill totaled just 14 snaps in SEC play as the Vols finished 11-2.
Three of his eight receptions went for touchdowns. Merrill hauled in a 16-yard strike from Hendon Hooker late in the first half of the season-opening win against Ball State. His other two touchdown catches were from Joe Milton III – a 38-yarder early in the fourth quarter against Akron later in September and a 7-yard catch in the third quarter of the regular-season finale at Vanderbilt at the end of November.
Merrill finished with two catches for 46 yards against Akron and two catches for 41 yards against UT Martin in October.
As a freshman in 2021, Merrill played in 10 games and totaled five catches for 52 yards. Most of his production – four catches for 40 yards – came in a start against Tennessee Tech in the third game of the season, and he added a 12-yard reception in the frantic final minutes against Ole Miss. He totaled 81 snaps on offense for the season.
Merrill joined the home-state Vols off a record-setting career at Brentwood High School in the Mid-State. During his senior season, he totaled 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns on a school-record 100 catches, and he had a 16-catch, 206-yard game that fall, following up a 62-catch, 568-yard junior season in 2019. He was rated a four-star prospect and ranked the No. 342 overall prospect, No. 54 wide receiver and No. 8 player in Tennessee in the 247Sports Composite for the 2021 class.
He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.