Tennessee hasn’t had as many injury concerns this year as they have in the last two seasons, but the Vols haven’t been without their nicks and bruises. UT is without starting center Brandon Kennedy and starting outside linebacker Jonathan Kongbo for the rest of the season, and there have been a few other big contributors for the Vols who have missed time due to injury.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked about some of those players heading into this Saturday’s match-up with South Carolina. One of those injured Vols is starting tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson. The JUCO transfer didn’t play against Alabama after suffering a pulled hamstring against Auburn, and Pruitt says he’s questionable for Saturday’s game.
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“When you have a pulled hamstring, it’s kind of day to day,” Pruitt said of Wood-Anderson after practice on Wednesday. “Sometimes it depends on the severity of the injury, and some guys heal faster than others. He’s practiced this week every day, so he’ll be a guy that’ll be questionable, and we’ll have to make a game-time decision.”
In six games this season, Wood-Anderson has seven receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. He hasn’t been as involved in the passing game as many expected because he’s had to stay along the line to help out with pass protection more than anticipated this year. But when he’s been healthy, he’s been the starter for the Vols at tight end and leads the group in receptions and has the only touchdown of a UT tight end on the roster this season.
Wood-Anderson is the only starter Pruitt mentioned on Wednesday, but he was also asked about true freshman safety Trevon Flowers’ progression. Flowers broke his collarbone during a practice session during Tennessee’s bye week, and he’s missed the last two games. At the time, Pruitt said Flowers would likely be out for several weeks but anticipated he would be back at some point this season.
But right now, Flowers isn’t ready to take the field just yet.
“He’s not ready yet,” Pruitt said of Flowers. “It will probably be a couple more weeks before he’s out there. It’s good for him to to get around. He’s been itching to do it. It’s good to see him out there.”
Flowers started Tennessee’s season opener against West Virginia, but he came off the bench in the Vols’ next four games he played in. In the five games before his injury, Flowers had totaled nine tackles and a pass defended at safety.
Tennessee’s offensive line has been dealt a few injuries this season, most notably starting center Brandon Kennedy. But backup guard/center Riley Locklear also suffered an injury earlier this season, but his was far less severe than Kennedy’s. Locklear injured his leg just like Kennedy, but unlike Kennedy, he didn’t tear his ACL. Locklear was expected to be out 10-15 days when he injured himself at the beginning of October.
Now it’s been three weeks since that injury, and Pruitt says Locklear is back. And he’s also been pleased with the progress Kennedy has made.
“I saw Brandon (Kennedy) today, and he was kind of bouncing down the hall,” Pruitt sated. “I asked him if he was ready to play. I went in there and sat down in my office, and I’m looking at the calendar and I was trying to see, I think he’s maybe seven or eight weeks out of surgery. And then Riley (Locklear) is back really fast. So that’s good.
“These guys come here to get a degree and play ball. And unfortunately, because it’s a physical game, sometimes there are injuries along the way. You want to have a medical staff that can get them out there as fast as possible as long as they’re fine. I think our guys do a fantastic job, and I think it showed.”
Pruitt didn’t talk about any other injured players such as Micah Abernathy on Wednesday. Abernathy has missed the Vols’ last two games against Auburn and Alabama.
The Vols will take on South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday at 7:30 Eastern. It will be Tennessee’s third road game in their last four games.