Alton Howard has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, Butch Jones announced Wednesday. Howard was suspended for the Bowling Green game for an unspecified violation of team rules before being reinstated, when he suffered a concussion against Western Carolina that kept him sidelined since Sept. 19.
“He’s had concussion-like symptoms and many nagging injuries, however, he has been dismissed from the football team,” Jones said. “They are totally unrelated to his injuries.”
The senior from Orlando led the team in receptions (54) and yards (534) last season, but caught only one pass for eight yards and rushed for 13 yards in 2015.
“It’s definitely a big loss,” senior safety Brian Randolph said. “He’s a very talented guy, a fun guy to be around, but it’s a big week for us and we can’t let any distractions in. We’re all just focusing on Georgia.”
"He's obviously a close friend of mine, but it's not really tough," junior cornerback Cameron Sutton said. "I've got a lot to focus on for myself. I've got a team to lead, and I've got to be prepared and ready to go each and every Saturday. We can't really focus on that. We've got to get ready for each and every week."
Howard ended his Tennessee career with 1,068 yards and seven touchdowns.
Starting right tackle Brett Kendrick has been limited in practice this week with an unspecified injury. Kendrick’s absence would force the offensive line to shuffle around like it did in fall camp as Jones tweaks the line to accommodate missing his starter on the right side.
"We kind of have a Plan A and a Plan B based on Brett and a couple of other individuals. We've done that all year. The great thing is we have some older players that have moved around, so that shouldn't be much of a change there. We practice that way."
“As of right now, we anticipate both (Phillips and North) playing Saturday," Jones said. "Marquez continues to get better. Now how much does he progress until Saturday? I’ll know a little bit more about Kyle after watching him in practice (Wednesday). They were very, very encouraged with what they saw from him yesterday. Marquez was able to get some reps … We’ll know a little bit more in the next 48 hours.”
There's an advantage schematically to playing three physical teams in a row with talented tight ends, power run games and physical fronts that do not run the spread. Preparing for their similarities can be advantageous when you don't have to throw away the game plan and start completely fresh every week.
There's also the disadvantage of, well, actually matching up against three teams that seem to enjoy popping pads in the trenches.
"It's nice from a schematical standpoint. It's very challenging from a physicality standpoint," Jones said. "You know, all these football teams are extremely physical, syou have to pick your spots in practice. That's a challenge in and of itself, especially when you don't have the depth across the board that we're working to build yet."
Muzzling the Dawgs
Tennessee's defense might see its stiffest challenge yet Saturday against an explosive Georgia offense that boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate in the backfield in running back Nick Chubb. The Vols know keying in on Chubb early is paramount to making UGA one-dimensional with quarterback Greyson Lambert, who has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception on the year for an average of 163 yards a game in the air.
"You do have to stop the run, first and foremost, but that is what makes them dangerous. They can beat you with the play-action pass," Jones said. "They can beat you with the throwing game. They have gone into each game very similar, in terms of game plan, like we do. Each game is a different game."
Georgia sits right above Tennessee as the No. 2 rushing offense in the SEC, averaging 244 yards a game behind the three-headed monster of Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall. But Jones knows his team will have to consolidate Lambert's attempts and keep him out of a rhythm early to win the game.
"They have done that a couple of games, where they started the game of with the passing game being a point of emphasis," Jones said. "You can see that in their play calling. Lambert manages the game. They have a very good offensive line that is athletic. They have some very good wide outs that can run and are very skilled. We have to do both, but any time you can make an offense one-dimensional, it obviously helps."