Football coaches are constantly walking the fine line between pushing the competitiveness and physicality in practice and giving their players — and their bodies — the rest they deserve. That’s a dance that’s even more precarious in fall camp, with the season just days away.
Butch Jones, head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, is currently weighing his options in that regard. He has to get his team ready for a Week 1 clash against Georgia Tech — which won’t be a walk in the park — but he also has to keep his players fresh. Reportedly, the latter idea has put a Saturday scrimmage on the chopping block. Jones hasn’t made any decisions yet, but the health — or lack thereof — of his offensive lineman is a big sticking point that could end up forcing the Vols to cancel their Saturday scrimmage.
Here’s the scoop, per Mike Griffith of SEC Country:
“We need that competition, we were set to scrimmage on Saturday and we may change that based on where we’re at with the offensive line, because we need a full group to make it as competitive as possible,” Jones said. “Our defensive line needs it, our entire team needs it.”
Fifth-year senior and projected starting right tackle Brett Kendrick returned to practice on Tuesday, but freshman guard Trey Smith and sophomore offensive tackle Marcus Tatum remained sidelined by undisclosed injuries.
Smith being out is a big deal for the Vols, despite the fact that he’s only a freshman. Per Griffith, he’s slated to be Tennesee’s starter at right guard. Tennessee has already had some major issues on that side of the line as well, as right tackle Chance Hall was recently lost for the season after a knee injury.
“He’s going to have surgery and he’ll have a redshirt year,” Jones said of Hall, per Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports. “He’ll come back and he’ll be stronger than ever for it, but he’ll be out.”
Marcus Tatum, the 6-foot-6, 281-pound sophomore tackle, is expected to be a backup at right tackle, but his health is just as important at Smith’s. Projected starting right tackle Brett Kendrick is recently coming off an injury of his own, so having Smith ready to go in case anything else happens is vital to the Vols.