Senior defensive back Baylen Buchanan will not play this season, Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt told the media Monday evening. Buchanan continues to rehab from a spinal injury.
“Baylen Buchanan is going to sit out this season based off a medical issue that he’s continued to work on,” Pruitt said following practice. “He’s showed a lot of improvement there. He’s going to continue to work hard to get better there. He’s not going to play this season.”
Buchanan has not played since he was a true junior during the 2018 season. Pruitt revealed last August that over the offseason prior to the 2019 season, doctors discovered an abnormality. In addition to not playing, Buchanan has rarely practiced.
“Baylen had a couple issues during the offseason,” Pruitt said at the time. “We discovered he has a kind of narrowing of the spine, so for his safety and precaution, we’re holding him out… We’ve sent him to a lot of specialists across the country.”
Pruitt added at the time Buchanan “has a redshirt” to use if he isn’t cleared to play in 2019. Buchanan took that redshirt and was set to be a fifth-year senior for the Vols this fall. Pruitt did not indicate during Monday’s press conference that it was a career-ending decision to not play in 2020. All indications are that Buchanan is planning to play in 2021.
“One thing you gotta figure out is, is this something that he’s had the whole time he’s played, or is this something that kinda has just happened right now?” Pruitt added a year ago. “But to be precautionary, we’ve held him out, and we’re going to continue to do that because his safety is our first priority.”
The 5-foot-11, 196-pound defensive back started all 12 games for the Vols in 2018 and seemed in line to be a contributor at least at nickelback if not also as a backup at one of the outside corner positions in 2019.
In 2018, Buchanan totaled 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, four passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in 12 starts. Buchanan played extensively as a freshman in 2016, but he only appeared in six games as a sophomore in 2017.
In 31 career games, Buchanan has totaled 73 tackles, three tackles for loss, five passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He’s made 13 starts in his 31 appearances.
Buchanan signed out of high school as a three-star prospect from Peachtree Ridge High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia where he played with former Vol safety Nigel Warrior and current Tennessee wide receiver Deangelo Gibbs. Buchanan’s father, Ray, starred at Louisville and played in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders, earning All-Pro honors twice in 1994 and 1998.