It was reported earlier today that the Vols’ most experienced returning defensive lineman was feared “lost for the season” after suffering a knee injury during practice on Tuesday. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that after practice on Wednesday.
Pruitt stated that senior defensive lineman Emmit Gooden will miss the entirety of the 2019 season after suffering a season-ending leg injury during the Vols’ fall camp session on Tuesday. Gooden appeared to be in line for a starting role along Tennessee’s defensive line heading into the 2019 season.
Tennessee’s defensive line lost all three starters from last season, and Gooden was the most experienced returning lineman on the roster. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound JUCO transfer appeared in all 12 games for the Vols last season and started in the season finale against Vanderbilt. In those 12 games, Gooden totaled 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and a sack.
If Gooden’s injury is severe and holds him out the entire 2019 season, that leaves a massive hole on Tennessee’s defensive line, and getting Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon eligible is even more important for the Vols now.
Should Gooden be out for the season, Tennessee would return no starts along the defensive line and only has a combined 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a sack among the rest of their defensive linemen who were on the roster last season. Matthew Butler has the most experience with 17 appearances in two seasons and totaling 17 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in his career. Only one other player (Ja’Quain Blakely) has appeared in more than five games as a Vol in the unit.
Solomon appeared in 18 games with Michigan, and he played in all 13 as a true freshman in 2017. He totaled 24 tackles and two tackles for loss in his two seasons with the Wolverines.
If Solomon is granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, then that will be a big boost to UT’s defensive line after the unfortunate news about Gooden. Tennessee also has two JUCO transfers in Savion Williams and Darel Middleton fighting for spots along the line, and freshman nose tackle Elijah Simmons has already turned some heads in fall camp.