How Injuries Have Affected Vols’ Starting Roster

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    When the Vols started the 2016 season, their roster had the most depth they’d had up to this point under head coach Butch Jones. Tennessee had experience at most starting positions and enough depth to combat an injury or two in most units.

    But seven weeks into the season, the Vols’ depth has been tested.

    The Vols have sustained an alarming amount of injuries to start their season, and when you compare their opening week starters to who was starting against Alabama, you can see just how different the makeup of the team is now.

    Here are the players who started for the Vols against Appalachian State:

    QB: Joshua Dobbs
    RB: Jalen Hurd
    WR: Josh Smith, Preston Williams, Josh Malone
    TE: Ethan Wolf
    OL: Drew Richmond, Jason Robertson, Coleman Thomas, Dylan Wiesman, Brett Kendrick

    DL: Corey Vereen, Kendall Vickers, Danny O’Brien, Derek Barnett
    LB: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Darrin Kirkland Jr.
    CB: Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, Malik Foreman
    S: Todd Kelly Jr., Micah Abernathy

    KR: Evan Berry, Alvin Kamara
    PR: Cam Sutton, Alvin Kamara

    Here are the starters for the Alabama game (players who didn’t start in Week 1 are in italics):

    QB: Joshua Dobbs
    RB: Jalen Hurd
    WR: Josh Malone, Jauan Jennings, Josh Smith
    TE: Ethan Wolf
    OL: Brett Kendrick, Jashon Robertson, Dylan Wiesman, Jack Jones, Chance Hall

    DL: Corey Vereen, Kendall Vickers, Kahlil McKenzie, Derek Barnett
    LB: Colton Jumper, Cortez McDowell
    CB: Emmanuel Moseley, Baylen Buchanan, Rashaan Gaulden
    S: Todd Kelly Jr., Micah Abernathy

    KR: Evan Berry, Micah Abernathy
    PR: Alvin Kamara, Josh Smith

    Coming into the Alabama game, the Vols had eight different starters than their opening week starting lineup. And that’s not counting Alvin Kamara taking over for Cam Sutton at punt returner.

    The change in lineup didn’t stop there, however. Tennessee lost a few more starters during the Alabama game itself, including losing first-time starter Kahlil McKenzie for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

    Tennessee’s injuries haven’t just affected their starting lineup, however. The Vols’ depth has also been hit by the rash of injuries. Linebacker has especially been decimated by injuries, as the Vols were down to their fifth and sixth string players at one point against the Tide.

    Throw in departures from Preston Williams and Danny O’Brien for non-injury reasons, and the Vols’ roster is immensely different right now than it was a month and a half ago.

    The Vols are expected to get a handful of players back after this bye week when they play South Carolina next week. Even once they get some of them back, though, the Vols will still have a number of key contributors out. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Quart’e Sapp, and Kahlil McKenzie are all confirmed out for the season. Cam Sutton is unlikely to return till late in the season if then, and Alvin Kamara reportedly could miss a large chunk of the remainder of the season as well.

    Tennessee’s starting roster has undergone a drastic change since the opening week of the season. Even when the Vols get some of their players back from injuries, their makeup will remain altered because of those injuries too.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.