Tennessee starters Squirrel White and Omari Thomas both went down with injuries in the second half of the Vols’ season opener against Virginia.
Thomas briefly returned to the game after the injury but White did not come back in after leaving the game with what appeared to be a lower body injury. Heupel provided a positive update about White’s status during his Monday press conference.
“Squirrel, it was just the time of the game,” Heupel said Monday. “That was the only reason he wasn’t back in the game. I think we’re in a good spot there with those guys.”
White earned the start at slot receiver against Virginia and caught a game-high six passes for 45 yards. The speedster didn’t get loose behind the Cavaliers’ secondary any but consistently had success in the short passing game.
Thomas totaled three tackles and 1.5 tackles in 25 snaps while earning a 65.4 PFF grade for his performance. Both Thomas and White are crucial starters for Tennessee on either side of the ball.
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The Memphis native Thomas has been in the defensive line rotation for each of the last three seasons and has been a starter the last two years. The Alabama native White performed well in his opportunities as a backup during his freshman season and is stepping into a bigger role this season.
Tennessee has remained healthy during the early parts of the season with center Cooper Mays and defensive tackle Elijah Simmons being the only key Vols that missed the season opener.
Heupel didn’t update either player’s status Monday ahead of the Vols’ home opener against Austin Peay at Neyland Stadium. Mays is seemingly closing in on returning to the field after undergoing a “minor procedure” during fall camp. It could be a longer wait for Simmons’ return as the defensive tackle was walking on campus on crutches last week.
Kickoff between the Vols and Governors is at 5 p.m. ET Saturday. Justin Kutcher and Dave Steckel are on the call for SEC Network+.