The Vols plan to seek a medical hardship for him and expect him to return for spring practice.
RTI has learned via sources that Bates injured his shoulder on a kickoff during the Arkansas State game and after a couple weeks of rehab, they found he had a tear. Bates did see limited snaps at UGA on Saturday with a brace on before the injury was found.
The former four-star recruit and son of UT legend Bill Bates has six tackles on the season and has been a key cog on special teams and has seen situational work on defense filling in for Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
“I talked to (Bates),” linebacker Curt Maggitt said. “My advice to him was everything happens for a reason. Embrace the process. He’s got a lot of time left – he’s still a freshman.”
The Vols have some reliable first-line players at linebacker in A.J. Johnson, Reeves-Maybin and Curt Maggitt, but Bates’ absence clearly leaves the Vols with less depth.
“Cortez McDowell is a young man that continues to progress,” Butch Jones said. “He’s kind of following the progression of Jalen last year in where he gets better and better in his football intelligence.” Reeves-Maybin also mentioned freshman Elliott Berry as somebody who could step up and take some reps behind him with Dillon’s absence.
One silver lining on the Bates injury: he could, in theory, still be on the roster in 2018. That should be a scary thought for the rest of the SEC.