Butch Jones confirmed reported injury concerns for projected starting nickelback Rashaan Gaulden on Saturday, announcing that the sophomore fractured his foot recently during a special teams drill while cutting and will be lost for the season.
Gaulden is the third player confirmed lost for the year for the Vols, and the second likely starter, joining senior Marcus Jackson on the shelf for the year in addition to projected backup offensive lineman Austin Sanders. Jones confirmed that junior cornerback Cam Sutton will switch to No. 7, Gaulden’s number, to honor him this season. Gaulden, a Nashville native, played as a true freshman and still has his redshirt season available, which will now be used this season.
Jones didn’t have an immediate solution to how the Vols would shuffle the secondary, but did discuss some of the options the Vols have.
“We do have some options,” Jones said. “Cam has played there, Malik Foreman has played there, Micah Abernathy has played there, you know, a number of individuals have played there, Emmanuel Moseley has some reps there, so that’s been an invaluable tool – the number of repetitions that individuals have gained there. Like we talked about, sub-defenses, the nickel position, is as important as any position that there is when you talk defensive football.”
Tennessee will get some help in the secondary on Monday when injured cornerback Justin Martin returns to practice from a sprained knee suffered early in camp. The junior college transfer will give some Tennessee more options in the defensive backfield. In addition to Martin, Jones confirmed that defensive end LaTroy Lewis and wide receiver Marquez North will return to the practice field on Monday as well.
Safety Todd Kelly Jr. (illness), OL Jack Jones (strain) and WR Josh Smith (strain), were all held out of practice on Saturday, Jones confirmed.