Tennessee dealt with a multitude of injuries last season, especially on defense. And that trend is beginning to carry over to the 2017 season as well.
According to a report from 247Sports, the Vols could be without another defensive starter for an extended period of time because of an injury sustained during Tennessee’s 26-20 loss to Florida on Saturday. Starting linebacker Cortez McDowell left the game in the third quarter and never returned. And now he reportedly may be facing surgery.
The report indicates that McDowell suffered a potentially significant wrist injury while chasing down Florida running back Lamical Perine in the third quarter. Perine was eventually stripped by safety Nigel Warrior, but McDowell was hurt on the play and never returned to the game. He would finish the contest with three tackles.
Tennessee is already down one starter and a few valuable backups on defense this season. Starting linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. is out for the entire season with a knee injury, and safety Todd Kelly Jr. missed the game against Florida with an injury as well. The severity of Kelly’s injury is unknown at this time, but he is reportedly having it examined by a doctor this week. Linebacker Austin Smith, who is listed as the starting linebacker when the Vols use a three linebacker scheme on defense, has been sidelined since the start of the season and remains out indefinitely.
McDowell started four games last season and earned the start in all three games so far this year. In three games this season, McDowell has totaled 24 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery.
The Vols will likely turn to redshirt sophomore Quart’e Sapp, who totaled seven tackles against Florida, to fill in for McDowell. Sophomore Daniel Bituli could also see increased snaps at linebacker.
Tennessee is also without offensive lineman Chance Hall and wide receiver Jauan Jennings on offense for the season due to injury.
Head coach Butch Jones will address the media during his weekly press conference on Monday at noon, and confirmation of the injury should be expected at that time.