Tennessee added to its lengthy injury list on Tuesday afternoon with Butch Jones confirmed that defensive end Austin Smith will be lost for the rest of the spring with a shoulder injury.
Smith, who has drawn positive reviews this spring as he’s moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, will join the approximately 15 players who are on the shelf this spring in working on the mental side of the game while being held off the practice field.
“He has to do a great job with the mental game, getting in and spending some time with the older players, doing a lot of video study,” Jones said of Smith. “But it’s something that it’s unfortunate, but he has to make the most of it. I really believe that you can get better when it comes to those things if you do the proper film study and are taking the proper mental reps.”
Jones also confirmed that reserve offensive lineman Austin Sanders, who missed all of 2015 with an injury, has been out with a sprained ankle, but could return to practice as soon as Thursday’s session. Cornerback Justin Martin also remained out with the flu, as Jones said the team has been dealing with some illness.
Smith is one of a handful of Vol players dealing with a shoulder issue this spring, though Jones indicated that many of the injuries were actually from the 2015 season that were being addressed in the offseason. Still, he is continuing to look into any possible issues with training and practice that could be leading to what seems to be an unusually high number of injuries – particularly shoulder-related ones.
“We’re looking at that,” Jones said. “We’ve looked around the country and really every school we talk to is having the same issues. A lot of times I think it stems from early on, and it’s the change of football. It more of a lateral game – it’s a sideline to sideline game with the spread offenses so you have to cover more territory and a lot of times it gets back to the body position and reaching and lunging and not putting your feet in the proper position, so just like every year, we research the trends in all of college football and even high school football and obviously that’s a trend that everybody is suffering from.
“But also we’ve really revamped our strength and conditioning program to make sure we’re doing as much injury prevention with those certain types of muscles groups as we can.”