RTI contributor Robert Hughes is the author of this article
Although not as prevalent thus far this season as in recent years, injuries are already affecting the Tennessee Volunteers in 2019. The Vols have already been dealt one season-ending injury in the form of defensive lineman Emmit Gooden’s unfortunate injury in fall camp, and a couple other Vols have been dinged up over the last couple weeks.
Another Vol is currently out of action, and that’s led to one younger player making a position switch this week.
During a press conference after the Vols’ practice on Wednesday, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt addressed a position change to the Volunteers’ roster. Due to an injury to veteran running back Tim Jordan, freshman defensive back Aaron Beasley has been moved to tailback, a position he played in high school.
“Well, we’ve got three running backs (Tim Jordan, Eric Gray, and Ty Chandler). And now Tim [Jordan] has a turned ankle, so we’ve only got two,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt didn’t specify the severity of Jordan’s “turned ankle” and didn’t give a timetable for his return. It remains to be seen if Jordan will play this weekend against BYU. Against Georgia State on Saturday, Jordan ran for just 16 yards on seven carries and added a three-yard reception.
Tennessee had already shuffled around the running back group this fall with sophomore Jeremy Banks converting from a running back to an inside linebacker. That move was flirted with last season, but it appears permanent now.
And because of that move, Tennessee’s depth chart at running back is thinner than anticipated with Jordan’s injury.
“When we took Jeremy [Banks] and moved him to inside linebacker, it made us thin [at running back],” Pruitt explained.
As a true freshman, Banks had a brief stint at linebacker in the 2018 season. But he began the 2019 campaign at running back before eventually being moved back to inside linebacker in the last bit of fall camp. Banks played some at linebacker on Saturday against Georgia State, totaling three tackles and a tackle for loss.
Because Banks isn’t an option at running back right now, Pruitt elected to move true freshman Aaron Beasley to the backfield on offense. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound athlete from Franklin, Georgia played on both sides of the ball in high school, and he was successful as both a defender and a running back. As a senior, Beasley had the third-most rushing yards in a single season in school history at Heard County High School when he racked up 1,961 yards. He also ran for 1,749 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior in 2017.
Beasley started out in the secondary with the Vols in fall camp, but he was recently moved to inside linebacker to give Tennessee enough bodies at the position in practice. Now, he’s been moved to the offensive side of the ball for the first time in his collegiate career.
Despite his inexperience at the position in college, Pruitt noted Beasley’s willingness to make the switch to the offensive side of the ball, saying the freshman called Pruitt and asked to be moved to the new position.
“Aaron Beasley is a guy that’s a really good football player,” Pruitt said. “That’s why we want him here. He’s a team guy; he wants to contribute to the team.”
Although no other moves were announced at the running back position, Pruitt added that the possibility remains for more players to be converted to running back.
It remains to be seen how much playing time, if any, Beasley will receive against the BYU Cougars on Saturday, but Vol fans and coaches alike hope to see a better spark out of the backfield. The Vols’ 93 rushing yards against Georgia State were overwhelmingly outperformed by the Panthers’ 213 yards on the ground in Tennessee’s season-opening loss.
Other injury news and notes come on both sides of the ball. Pruitt said that left guard Trey Smith will “always be week-by-week,” adding that Smith is a game-time decision for Saturday’s match-up against BYU. Additionally, Pruitt noted that linebacker Daniel Bituli is “close” to playing and has a chance to see some snaps on Saturday.