On Tuesday he was seen running close to full speed around the practice field under the supervision of trainers. After declaring him out for the season after he suffered the injury against Utah State, Butch Jones acknowledged after practice on Tuesday that Gilliam, a redshirt senior, is working towards what could be a potential return.
“Jacob is an individual as we all know that is extremely competitive,” Jones said. “This football team means everything to him and will continue to progress. He still has a dream in the back of his mind of still playing. We’ll see how he progresses.”
Jones clarified that he was talking about this year when asked a follow-up question about it.
Obviously there are a lot of unanswered questions about how that would work. Could a torn ACL support a 300-pounder who needs to get in and out of his stance every play and would need to push off it regularly? Those are the unknowns.
Gilliam wouldn’t be the first player to try to play on a torn ACL, however. Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels played in the final three games of last year’s regular season (and won) with the injury before having surgery at the end of the regular season.
So we’ll keep an eye on this story going forward. There’s no timetable. There’s no guess on how or when he might be able to return or how effective he would be if he did. But it’s another interesting turn in his story and possibly some good news for an offensive line that will take help in any form that it might be available this season.