Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced on Monday that starting linebacker Cortez McDowell is out for the season with a wrist injury. He also confirmed that wide receiver Jauan Jennings is out for the year with an extremely similar injury.
With those two players out for the season, the Vols have now lost as many starts due to injury through three games this year as they did during all of last season. And if Todd Kelly Jr. misses as much time as is feared, the Vols will surpass their 2016 mark.
Last season, the Vols had the highest total amount of starts lost due to injury. Tennessee lost 52 career starts because of injuries last season, and no FBS school had more experience lost because of players doing down with injury.
Now just three games into the 2017 season, and the Vols have already equaled their starts lost due to injury from last year and are in danger of surpassing it rather quickly.
The Vols have lost offensive lineman Chance Hall, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., wide receiver Jauan Jennings, and now Cortez McDowell for the season. And their experience will be sorely missed on this Tennessee roster.
Cortez McDowell had four career starts entering the 2017 season, and he made another three starts this year before his injury sidelined him. Add his seven career starts to Chance Hall’s 13 starts, Kirkland’s 16 starts, and Jennings’ 16 starts, and that adds up to 52 starts, the exact total Tennessee lost last year as well.
And if Todd Kelly Jr.’s injury is as bad as feared, then that number will only increase.
Kelly missed the Florida game because of an injury, and he’s reportedly getting it checked out this week to determine the severity and the course of action for the future. Kelly hasn’t been starting this season, but he still provided valuable depth at the safety position and has been a starter before.
If Todd Kelly Jr. is out for a large chunk of time or ends up being out for the season, that will add another 16 starts lost because of injury. And it’s looking highly likely that Kelly will be out for an extended period of time.
Tennessee hasn’t lost the same number of players they did last season so far. The Vols lost more than just experienced starters last year; they also lost several backups who were key to the Vols’ rotation at several positions. So far this year, the Vols haven’t lost those depth players as much (with the exception of Kelly and losing Austin Smith for the first few games of the year), but they’ve already lost several players with extensive starting experience.
The Vols didn’t need a repeat of last year when it came to injuries, but it looks as though that’s what is happening this season. Tennessee is going to have to count on more young players to step up and fill the void the more experienced players have left behind.