According to Andrew Gribble, at GoVolsXtra, in the short Signing Day video linked below, Orta was not a last minute throw in to the 2011 recruiting class and that Orta had been a long time Clemson commitment that Tennessee was able to flip at the last minute and get to sign a LOI on NSD. Gribble never mentions anything about a grayshirt and in fact, he thought that Orta had a real shot at seeing playing time early.
Here is a quick video of Orta just shortly after signing with Tennessee. Note: again there is no mention of grayshirting.
The last article written on Orta, also from GoVolsXtra, indicates that Tennessee is in an oversigned position and will need to make roster space in order to get down to the 25 annual limit. It also indicates that there have been no announcements regarding plans to grayshirt any players, for any reason.
With that, 27 of the Vols’ 28 2011 signees are enrolled in classes and with the program. NCAA bylaws allow just 25 to be on scholarship for the upcoming season, but UT is able to have 26 because it was able to back-count one spot from the 2010 class.
Freshman defensive back Geraldo Orta, who has been enrolled since the first session of summer semester, underwent surgery Friday for his second shoulder surgery since December.
If the surgery renders Orta incapable of playing in 2011, the Vols will have two fewer additions than anticipated for their rebuilding secondary, but could now have an easier decision to make with whom to grayshirt.
Coach Derek Dooley has not announced any plans to grayshirt any members of his 2011 class, but if all 27 remain qualified and eligible when fall semester begins, one player will have to fully separate himself from the team until January.
In May, Orta told GVX247.com that he would probably redshirt the 2011 season because of a surgery he had in December.
“I hit someone on the sideline, and my arm was up at a 90-degree angle, and it popped out,” Orta told GVX247. “I stayed in the game. I played the whole season. I never really thought about coming out.
“They told me that if it happened again, just go ahead and have surgery or whatever, but they had confidence that therapy (during the season) would help it a lot.”
Based on some of Orta comments on his twitter account http://twitter.com/#!/Orta26, he seems a little upset and distraught:
Wes Rucker http://twitter.com/#!/wesrucker247 says that Tennessee hasn't confirmed anything yet, but it looks like Orta will be grayshirting. He also mentioned that Orta had surgery on Friday.
@TheMarchTo85 That it looks like he'll be grayshirting (just had surgery), but UT hasn't confirmed anything.
This situation seems very cut and dry. First of all, in this particular scenario we are dealing with the NCAA's annual limit of 25 new enrollees per class, so we don't have to waste time trying to figure out if Tennessee has room under the 85 limit, which is always a lot harder to do. According to the article above, Tennessee signed 28 and only had room for 26, meaning they had room to back count 1 to last year's class plus they had room for 25 more under both the 85 total limit and the annual 25 limit. Therefore, all we have to look at is the current class and the status of the 28 guys they signed on NSD.
It appears that Tennessee is in the same position as LSU was two years ago when they signed more than they projected having room for and everyone qualified, which they didn't expect, and which also led to Elliott Porter being asked to grayshirt despite already being on campus and having no idea that they were going to ask him to grayshirt.
We have asked Orta to comment, but he has yet to respond.
There is something serious wrong with this situation. Everyone that visits this site, whether you are pro-oversigning or anti-oversigning, agrees that when it comes to grayshirting there must be an agreement on or before NSD. Last minute grayshirts to clear space, either for the annual 25 limit or the total 85 limit, is wrong, and it is EXACTLY what Florida President, Bernard Machen was referring to as morally reprehensible when he wrote this article.
As Wes Rucker mentioned, this has not been confirmed by Tennessee yet, but if they do push a grayshirt offer on Orta this late in the process they should be crucified for it. Regardless, if the numbers above from the GoVolsXtra article are right, even if Orta doesn't grayshirt, someone else is going to have to go in order to get to 25.
As soon as we know more on this story we will share it. For now we're in a holding pattern as we wait to see what Tennessee does.