Tennessee linebacker Juwan Mitchell has had season ending shoulder surgery, Josh Heupel announced Monday.
“Juwan, of the guys that weren’t able to play last week, he is the one guy that won’t be with us on Saturday,” Heupel said. “Juwan will be out here for the rest of the season. Had shoulder surgery so will not be with us.”
Mitchell transferred from Texas to Tennessee this season after recording 62 tackles for the Longhorns last season as a sophomore.
Coming into a linebacker room short on depth and experience, Mitchell was expected to be an instant contributor and starter for Heupel’s first Tennessee team.
Mitchell’s performance in his short 2021 season was mostly disappointing, recording just eight tackles in three games.
The linebacker played in the Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and Florida games while missing the Tennessee Tech, Missouri and South Carolina games with injury.
Mitchell still has two seasons of eligibility remaining due to NCAA COVID-19 eligibility relief. The Vols are hoping for a more productive season for the talented linebacker in 2022.
“I hate it for him because we kind of talked before the season started and he told me his goals were personally and what he wanted for the team,” defensive back Alontae Taylor said Monday. “We kind of said next man up mentality. I talked to JuJu, I’ve prayed for him and continue to do that, but he’s in good spirits. He’s still here with the team. He’s still supporting the team.”
While Mitchell didn’t live up to expectations this season, the rest of Tennessee’s linebackers have been better than expected. Jeremy Banks has made real improvements from his junior season to senior season and Aaron Beasley is getting better each week.
Banks is third on the team with 33 tackles this season, Beasley isn’t far behind with 31 tackles and Solon Page III has 24 tackles this season.
Tennessee is now looking for another linebacker that can play snaps and help the Vols’ depth. True freshman and former four-star Aaron Willis could fit the mold.
“Aaron is a guy that’s traveled with us the last couple of weeks,” Heupel said. “Continues to grow in understanding of what we’re doing defensively.”
The challenge for Tennessee’s linebackers increases this week when they face an Ole Miss offense that’s the best in the SEC. Lane Kiffin’s offense can beat in a myriad of ways, ranking third in the conference in passing yards per game and second in the conference in rushing yards per game.