5. Can the Vols Avoid More Catastrophic Injuries?
Tennessee has already lost three projected full-time starters and two other valuable backups for the season. They can’t afford any more major injuries this year.
Both of the Vols’ starting linebackers, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Cortez McDowell, are out for the year. Kirkland never played a snap this season, and McDowell suffered his season-ending injury during the Florida game in Week 3. Starting wide receiver Jauan Jennings got hurt in the very first game of the year and is also out for the season.
Offensive lineman Chance Hall never played a down this season after suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp. Hall wasn’t necessarily a projected starter along the line, but he provided valuable depth and had made a number of starts in his career thus far. And safety Todd Kelly Jr. was ruled out for the year after the Vols’ 41-0 loss to Georgia even though he hadn’t played since Tennessee’s match-up with Indiana State in Week 2.
And all that doesn’t even mention lingering injuries to linebacker Austin Smith, wide receiver Latrell Williams, wide receiver Josh Smith, and kick returner/safety Evan Berry.
The Vols are already thin at a lot of areas on both sides of the ball. They’re also already having to rely on several young players at many positions. Another injury to a pivotal starter would only further complicate things for the rest of the season.