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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee forward Dominic Woodson has received an NCAA waiver allowing the Memphis transfer to play immediately rather than sitting out a year.
How much the 6-foot-10 sophomore will actually play may depend on how much weight he loses.
Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall announced Woodson's eligibility Thursday as the Volunteers prepare to open practice Sunday. The addition of the 6-foot-10, 281-pound sophomore adds some size to a roster that doesn't include anyone else with a listed weight above 220.
But he apparently will need to slim down a little bit as he adjusts to Tyndall's up-tempo style.
Tyndall says Woodson weighed 298 pounds when he enrolled in late August and is down to 281. Tyndall wants Woodson to get to 270 by the Nov. 3 exhibition game with Pikeville and to 265 by the start of December. Woodson averaged 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds for Memphis last season.
"As happy as we are that Dom has been cleared and will play this season, if we tipped it up today, he would not check in the game," Tyndall said. "He's got a million miles to go from a conditioning standpoint. He's lost 17-18 pounds, but he needs to lose another 12-15. His work ethic has improved, but the consistency to work the right way isn't there yet and, quite simply, guys are ahead of him. Now if he can continue to work the right way and lose some more weight, then he'll have a chance to play, no question."
The NCAA's decision still represents a major victory for a Tennessee team that underwent a turbulent offseason after going 24-13 and reaching an NCAA regional semifinal.
Not only did the Vols get a new coach after California hired away Cuonzo Martin, they also got almost an entirely new roster.
Senior guard Josh Richardson, sophomore guard Robert Hubbs and junior forwards Armani Moore and Derek Reese are Tennessee's only returning scholarship players. Richardson is the only player in that group who averaged more than five points per game last season.
That busy offseason means Tennessee likely won't have a smooth preseason as it gears up for its Nov. 14 season opener with VCU at Annapolis, Maryland. Woodson could boost a frontcourt that lacks bulk, but the Vols still don't have a proven point guard.
"With a new coach for the returning guys and a lot of newcomers, it's new to everybody," Tyndall said. "I'm learning these guys. They're learning about me. That's always a little bit of a rough transition, no matter when or where you take over. With an extremely young team and a new coach, there's going to be some bumps in the road, but I'm excited to just have some long workouts where we can really test these guys, see if they'll play through fatigue."
All those new faces have created plenty of uncertainty, particularly at the point guard position. Junior-college transfer Kevin Punter, a natural shooting guard, is getting the first shot at playing the point. Tyndall said Richardson, Moore and freshman forward Willie Carmichael are the players closest to securing starting spots but that every position remains open.
Tyndall has said throughout the offseason that he believes Tennessee will be picked to finish toward the bottom of the Southeastern Conference standings because of all the changes surrounding the program. Tennessee's players say they're using that as motivation.
"It kind of puts a chip on our shoulder for the season," Richardson said. "Every time I go in the gym, I know it makes me work that much harder."