Freshman defensive tackle Shy Tuttle will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken fibula and an ankle ligament tear against Georgia. The news was announced by Butch Jones at a Tuesday press conference and puts an end to a promising first season in which Tuttle notched 10 total tackles and a quarterback hurry.
"That is a big, big blow to our football team," coach Butch Jones said. "I love everything about Shy Tuttle. I thought he was continuing to progress and get better and better and better. He had developed into one of our playmakers on defense."
Tuttle's absence thins an interior line in the stages of a youth movement with Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie beginning to take more meaningful snaps as the season progresses. Losing Tuttle means Tennessee will be forced to look for a fifth defensive lineman to insert into the rotation with McKenzie, Owen Williams, Danny O'Brien and Kendal Vickers.
"That will be ongoing to see who can step up into that fifth spot. We're very, very limited there so our health is going to be critical," Jones said. "We're going to play the guys that have played, but we'll continue to work through that throughout the course of the week."
Freshman Quay Picou could to slide into the rotation if he's able to handle the workload and shows progress during the bye week.The Vols may also experiment with players like Dimarya Mixon and Kyle Phillips inside, as well as with playing with more three-down fronts.
"This week is very, very big for Quay to see how he can develop," Jones said. "But again, that's an area of recruitment. We've got to continue to grow and develop."
BYE WEEK PLANS
This week's bye provides a much-needed rest right in the middle of the season for Tennessee, but it doesn't mean the Vols will take the entire time to relax. Jones presented his players and staff with a detailed two-part plan to follow as they continue working throughout the week.
"I've kind of broken it down into two facets: one for the coaching staff and one for the team, and kind of a list of things we need to get accomplished int his bye week" he said. "For the coaching staff, first of all self-scout, going back and looking at the first six games and going back and looking at our schemes and looking and evaluating everything: evaluating personnel, then it gets into our really developing our players over this next week and then preparing for our next opportunity."
For the players, the third-year Vols coach wants them to rehabilitate mentally and physically while going back to develop fundamentals before prepraring for Alabama.
"I think the bye week si coming at a very, very needed time," Jones said. "In terms of our overall health, it's been a challenge. It's been physically exhausting and mentally exhausting the first six weeks, so to be able to get our health back is going to be critical."
Brett Kendrick missing Saturday's game with an injury coupled with Jashon Robertson and Mack Crowder going down against Georgia forced two young players to step up on the offensive line. Jack Jones and Chance Hall anchored the right side of the line at guard and tackle, respectively, and drew the admiration of their head coach in the process.
"The did a very good job. I thought they came into a very challenging situation, a very difficult situatino versus a very, very talented defensive front," Jones said. "I think the thing that sums it up is when we talked to Chance he said, 'Coach, everything was realy fast.' For what they were able to do, I thought they handled it remarkably."
Jones also mentioned Coleman Thomas, who played center and tackle, and guard Dylan Wiesman as players who stepped into key roles with much succes Saturday.
"I thought Coleman Thomas may have played his best game of the year. I thgouth he did some very good things as well," Jones said. "We have a weekly award of the individual who gives their all. Dylan won that award and very deservingly so. He's one of those individuals that's been battling through nagging injuries. He played physical and he helped us play winning football. I've been very, very proud of him and he stepped it up."
SENDING OFF SPURRIER
Jones grew up watching the Steve Spurrier-coached Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL in the early 1980s. He loved the team so much, he still has a framed 8x10 photo of a Bandits game program signed by the Head Ball Coach himself.
So when Spurrier announced his resignation from South Carolina after 11 years, Jones understood the significance his SEC Eastern Division rival had on the coaching profession.
"He's a living legend," Jones said. "He's brought so much to the coaching profession, he's brought so much to the game of football, and he's brought so much to the Southeastern Conference. I've really enjoyed the last couple of years, having the opportunity to compete against a legend. I have the utmost respect for him."
The many conversations the two shared both as head coaches on opposite sidelines and at SEC coaches conferences in Destin, Florida, over the years brought Jones to reminisce about one of the true coaching legends of the game who wasn't afraid to dish out a searing one-liner in a press conference.
"I think he's great for the game because you never know what he's going to say. He's brutally honest," Jones said. "He has a great personality and he's not afraid to tell you what he thinks. The many nights that he and I spent together in Destin at the SEC metings and hanging out and talking football, those are some of the most rewarding interactions I've had with an individual. I think he was healthy for our conference. I know you all in the media loved him because you never knew what was coming next. That's part of the aura of Steve Spurrier."
Offensive linemen Brett Kendrick, Jashon Robertson and Mack Crowder are all expected to be back before the Alabama game next Saturday. Wide receiver Marquez North and defensive lineman Kyle Phillips will practice Tuesday.