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May 4, 2009

Paige opts to turn the page and leave Tennessee

Rob Lewis
Rivals.com College Football
Associate Editor
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - An offseason that has seen plenty of attrition for the Tennessee football program saw more activity Monday with sophomore receiver Ahmad Paige announcing that he's transferring from the program now that the spring semester is over.

Paige, from Sterlington, La., arrived in Knoxville as a heralded prospect as part of a consensus top-five national recruiting class in 2007.

After two full years in the program and a spring practice under the new coaching staff, Paige had yet to secure a place in the receiver rotation.

"It's true, I'm leaving," Paige confirmed on Monday afternoon. "It's not anything negative as far as me and Tennessee or the new coaches. Playing time is part of it, but I really just feel like I need a new start. I've already spoken to Coach [Lane] Kiffin and we left everything on really good terms.

"I'm sad it didn't work out for me here, but I'm excited about getting a new start somewhere."

Paige acknowledged the prospects of playing time factored into his decision, but he's also dealt with more than his share of real-life tragedy.

"I've had some bad luck since I've been here, off the field more than on it," Paige said. "Playing time is part of it, but I really feel like I just need a change of scenery for my life and start over."

Paige, who redshirted in 2007 and didn't appear in a game last fall, never materialized into the playmaker he or Tennessee fans envisioned when the Vols won a fierce recruiting battle with USC to land him on National Signing Day.

Off the field and in the locker room, though, he was a popular figure - as much with the coaching staff as with the players.

"We had a good talk and everything was positive," Paige said of his final conversation with Kiffin. "He told me that he would release me without any restrictions because he felt like I was a good guy, didn't have any problems with academics or anything.

"He told me he'd help me find another school and that he was ready to give any coach who called him and asked about me a positive review. I don't have anything bad to say about Coach Kiffin or me leaving. Things just didn't work out for a lot of different reasons."

Paige becomes the ninth player to either voluntarily leave or be dismissed from the program since Kiffin arrived on the job in December.

Rob Lewis is the associate editor of VolQuest.com and covers both football and basketball. Lewis is in his eighth year on the basketball beat which is the longest tenure of any reporter covering the Vols.
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