Tennessee receiver Dont’e Thornton is out for the remainder of the regular season with a lower body injury, Vols’ coach Josh Heupel announced on Monday.
The Vols’ third-year coach said Thornton could potentially return for the bowl game but that he won’t be available for the final two games of the regular season: Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Heupel: Dont’e [Thornton] will be out for the remainder of the regular season. We’ll see where we’re at once we get to postseason play.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 13, 2023
Thornton caught the first touchdown of his Tennessee tenure on the same play that he suffered the regular season ending injury. The Oregon transfer hauled in a contested 47-yard touchdown catch against Missouri but stayed down after the diving catch, seemingly getting his ankle rolled up on the play.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) November 11, 2023
The 6-foot-5 speedster was one of Tennessee’s biggest disappointments for much of the season. He struggled to break into the Vols’ rotation early in the season and had bad drops when he did play. Even after Bru McCoy suffered a season-ending injury against South Carolina, Thornton didn’t catch a pass against Texas A&M or Alabama.
But Heupel and his staff put Thornton in the starting lineup against Kentucky and the talented receiver was starting to turn the corner before suffering the regular season ending injury against Missouri. Thornton totaled six of his 13 catches, 135 of his 224 yards and his lone touchdown in the last three games after becoming a starter.
Thornton’s injury is just the latest piece of bad luck for Tennessee’s receiver room this season. With both McCoy and Thornton sidelined, two of the Vols’ top four receivers entering the season are now injured.
Second-year receivers Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb will step into larger roles with Thornton sidelined the next two games. The test doesn’t get any easier as Tennessee faces No. 2 Georgia and the SEC’s best secondary this week at Neyland Stadium.
Kickoff at Neyland Stadium is at 3:30 p.m. ET. Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jenny Dell are on the call for CBS.