“He will be out for the rest of the year,” Jones confirmed, without going into specifics about the nature of the injury. “He tried to go this week. He had an MRI and couldn’t go and he will be out the rest of the year.”
North ends the season with 30 catches for 320 yards and four touchdowns – a somewhat disappointing line for a receiver that broke out and had nearly 500 yards as a true freshman in 2013.
Tennessee started Von Pearson, Pig Howard and Jason Croom at receiver against Missouri on Saturday. The Vols previously lost receivers Josh Smith and Cody Blanc for the season and were without Pearson for a couple weeks earlier this season.
Other injuries/absences: The injuries are starting to pile up on the Vols late in the season. In addition to North, center Mack Crowder, running back Derrell Scott, running back Devrin Young, guard Austin Sanders, safety Geraldo Orta and defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry were among the players who didn’t dress out against Missouri.
That’s in addition to linebacker A.J. Johnson and cornerbacks Michael Willaims (suspensions), safety Brian Randolph (first-half suspension) and reserve receiver Drae Bowles (unknown).
Several Vols, including defensive tackle Jordan Williams, tackle Jacob Gilliam, guard Marcus Jackson and others went down during the game, but none appeared to be nursing serious injuries.
Walk-ons execute fake field goal: The high point of the game for the Vols came in the first half when Jones dialed up a perfect trick play on a fake field goal that allowed walk-on holder Patrick Ashford, a former high school quarterback at Morristown (Tenn.) West to find walk-on tight end Alex Ellis for a 31-yard touchdown pass after Ellis slipped behind the defense.
“Gut feeling,” Jones said of the rationale for the call. “They had 11 men down on the line of scrimmage. It is something we have had in a couple weeks. We actually ran it against our defense in the bye week. Patrick (Ashford) did a tremendous job. Here is a young man that is a walk-on. He has done a great job and he gets an opportunity in a big-time game and delivers a strike.
“Again, walk-on to walk-on, Alex Ellis is (a walk-on) as well. I can’t say enough about their execution. I love those kids. They give everything for Tennessee.”
“Execute the play,” Ashford said of what he was thinking. “Don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. Just find Alex and give him the ball.”
Freshman record: The Vols started seven true freshman position players against Missouri, setting a new school record: guard Jashon Robertson, running back Jalen Hurd, tight end Ethan Wolf, defensive end Derek Barnett, linebacker Jakob Johnson, safety Todd Kelly Jr. and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.
That number does not count starting kicker Aaron Medley or starting kickoff returner Evan Berry.
“I’m proud of the way our kids scratched and crawled,” Jones said. “Again, we started seven true freshmen, never been done here in the history of 118 years of playing football at Tennessee. Four on defense and I thought our kids were resilient but we didn’t make enough plays and you can’t turn the football over against a good football team.”
Senior Night notes: The Vols honored 18 players for Senior Night, including redshirt junior safety Geraldo Orta, indicating that the fourth-year player does not play to return to Tennessee next season.
Senior A.J. Johnson (suspension) was not in attendance nor recognized on Saturday.