Vol defensive tackle Shy Tuttle has had quite the bad luck when it comes to injuries in his first two years with Tennessee. He suffered a season-ending injury against Georgia in 2015 and suffered yet another injury that ended his season prematurely last year against South Carolina.
It’s been over nine months since Tuttle had his latest season-ending injury, and after sitting out during all of Tennessee’s spring practices, Tuttle is finally back on the field and testing out his body. And his position coach is encouraged by what he sees.
“One gratifying thing is that he does a little more every day,” Vol defensive line coach Brady Hoke said about Tuttle after practice on Sunday. “Where that puts him, I’m not sure. I’m not a doctor or trainer. But I’m happy with how he’s jumped in and really pushed himself.”
If the Vols can get Tuttle back this season to provide depth at defensive tackle, Tennessee’s defensive line should be one of the deeper groups on the roster. But right now, coaches aren’t pushing Tuttle too quickly to return to action and are instead letting him return at his own pace.
Tuttle has played in just 13 of a possible 26 games in his first two years with the Vols. The junior enters this season with 19 total tackles, a tackle for loss, two passes defended, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick.
But Tuttle wasn’t the only Vol defensive lineman to sustain an injury last season. Several Vols along the defensive line suffered injuries last year, and one of those was Kyle Phillips. But the junior is back on the field, and Hoke likes what the defensive end brings to the table.
“It’s great to have him out there, have him out there healthy,” Hoke said of Phillips. “He has done a really good job. He’s got good leadership, he loves to play the game, and he’s got good effort. I think he’ll be sore a little bit, but that’s part of it.
“They’re going to be sore for the rest of their lives if you play college football long enough. But he’s been impressive.”
But Phillips’ production as a player hasn’t been the only thing that’s stood out to Hoke. He’s also been impressed with the junior’s leadership. When asked about what stands out about Phillips’ leadership, Hoke responded with “his effort” and gave an example.
“You watch film and see the backside end sprinting down the field to cut off the ball carrier. That’s Kyle Phillips,” Hoke stated. “That’s something that you try and show to all the young guys so they create that habit also.”
The Vols sustained a rash of injuries last season. It’s crucial those players return this season healthy and that Tennessee avoids a similar situation this year. So far, one of Tennessee’s injured players, Kyle Phillips, is back and performing well. Now the Vols just need Shy Tuttle to continue to progress.