The Vols could be without their leading returning receiver from the 2014 season, or at least without him 100%, as they travel to Gainesville to open up their SEC schedule against Florida.
“Alton Howard is an individual who, as the week progresses, we see how many repetitions he can give us,” head coach Butch Jones said Wednesday in his final meeting with the media before the Vols play Florida.”He is nursing some things. We will see as the week progresses. We still have a few days left of practice, so we will see a little more where we are at. I anticipate everyone to be available and ready to play, but it’s a practice-by-practice and hour-by-hour situation when you head out onto the practice field starting today.”
Jones mentioned on Monday that Howard “tweaked” an ankle early against Western Carolina last Saturday, but didn’t go into more detail. Howard had one carry for one yard and no catches against WCU in his limited reps. That followed a performance against Oklahoma in which he had just one catch for eight yards and one carry for 12 yards. He did not play in the opener against Bowling Green due to a suspension.
Howard, a Florida native, had six receptions for 79 yards against the Gators in 2014 and four catches for 75 yards in that matchup in 2013, making him easily the most productive WR against the Gators the Vols have on their current roster.
Jones also said freshman cornerback Darrell Miller, who has seen limited game reps, is questionable “from an injury that occurred a couple weeks ago.” Defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, who was reinstated from a two-week suspension this week, will be on the travel roster after Jones said he’d have to earn that earlier in the week. And offensive guard Jashon Robertson, who was pulled from the WCU game early, is expected to play against the Gators.
“[Robertson’s] had a very good week of preparation,” Jones said. “You know, you have to pick your spots with him but he’s very, very intelligent. Today’s another big day for him but we fully anticipate him being ready to go.”
Confident Williams: Known for his abundance of confidence on and off the field, Tennessee freshman receiver Preston Williams is feeling even better about himself after hauling in three catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns in addition to receiving SEC Freshman of the Week Honors.
“He has more confidence,” Jones said. “It’s hard to imagine Preston Williams with more confidence. I think he has more confidence in his technique, confidence in his schemes, confidence in his assignments. Our older players do a great job of holding him responsible and accountable to our style of play and our habits. Preston is eager and willing and wants to do it, wants the practice repetitions, wants to work. It’s the body of work. Here is a young man that didn’t have any training camp, so you have to pick your spots with him and the football endurance that goes with it. He is very prideful in his performance as is all of our players.”