Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Monday for his first weekly Monday press conference of the 2019 season. Pruitt discussed several topics during his meeting with the media, but he addressed two of the most talked about topics of discussion before reporters even asked him questions about them.
Pruitt has been asked ad nauseum about the health status of offensive lineman Trey Smith and the eligibility status of defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon. Both were listed as co-starters at their respective positions in Tennessee’s Week 1 depth chart on Monday despite both not being cleared for action. Pruitt addressed both players’ statuses before even being asked by the gathered media.
On Monday, Pruitt provided a somewhat optimistic update on Smith while offering no real update on Solomon’s situation.
“The plan’s not changed with Trey,” Pruitt stated. “Our doctors and medical folks will continue to work hard and try and find a way to allow him an opportunity to play. He has had a chance to participate in a couple practices this camp. We’re just going to kinda stay the course there.
“It’ll really be a game-time decision with that.”
Smith has been at every practice during fall camp, but he has yet to be cleared for full contact — at least during the portion of practice open to the media. The junior lineman seems to be gearing up to play for Week 1, and Pruitt calling him a “game-time decision” is more optimistic than fans were hoping for just a month or so ago.
Still, the journey is far from over for Smith, and the blood clots in his lungs that have plagued him for over a year could cause an issue at any time.
Blood clots were discovered in Smith’s lungs last offseason, and he was held out of spring practices in 2018 as his health was monitored and doctors examined him. Smith was cleared to return to football activities over the summer, and he was slowly integrated into Tennessee’s practices during fall camp. He was cleared for full contact late in fall camp, and he began the season as the Vols’ starting left tackle.
Smith started the first seven games of Tennessee’s season, playing every game at left tackle. But before UT’s game against South Carolina on October 27th, Smith’s blood clots resurfaced, and he was held out the remainder of the 2018 season.
Tennessee’s coaches and doctors held Smith out of spring practices once again in 2019, though he was on the field. Smith never went through contact drills, but he continued to work out and kept himself in shape in the spring and summer. Smith has been on the practice field all fall for the Vols during fall camp.
The former five-star prospect started all 12 games for the Vols as a true freshman, beginning the season at guard and then starting the final three games at left tackle. He earned Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC honors for his debut year at Tennessee. Smith’s future seemed extremely bright at Tennessee.
Then, the blood clots were discovered. Now, Smith’s future remains cloudy, and it remains to be seen what kind of future he can have in football.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan defensive line transfer Aubrey Solomon has been waiting to hear back from the NCAA for months regarding his immediate eligibility waiver for the 2019 season. Solomon and Tennessee have been engaged in a holding pattern for over half a year at this point, and Pruitt expressed some frustration on Friday during a meeting with the local media after practice.
On Monday, Pruitt again addressed Solomon’s situation. And again, there was no real new information to share.
“Still same thing there. Haven’t heard anything yet,” Pruitt said of Solomon’s waiver. “We’re going to continue to practice like he’s gonna play. All our guys take a lot of reps at practice, and we’re going to continue to do that because it helps us create some depth on both sides of the ball.”
Things are still the same for Tennessee in regards to Solomon’s status, and he’s practiced like he’s going to play in Week 1 all during fall camp. Still, UT has yet to hear anything definitive back from the NCAA regarding his eligibility status, and kick-off against Georgia State is just five days away.
Solomon joined the Vols back in December of 2018 after transferring from Michigan, but he’s gone over eight months without knowing if he’ll play in 2019 or not. The junior defensive lineman participated fully in spring practices and in fall camp with Tennessee.
At Michigan, the former five-star prospect appeared in all 13 games for the Wolverines as a true freshman. He totaled 18 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in his first year on campus at Michigan. Solomon totaled just six tackles as a sophomore in six games as injuries hampered him.