KNOXVILLE — A significant Achilles injury to University of Tennessee senior defensive end was “manageable.”
A similar injury to Volunteers sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Walls would be a different story.
Walls, a likely starter at one of the Vols’ thinnest positions, left Saturday’s practice early with what first-year head coach Derek Dooley called an Achilles injury. The player was evaluated Saturday night, but the severity wasn’t immediately known.
“I don’t know. He went down, and I think it’s an Achilles,” Dooley said. “I hate to say that, but ... we’ll see.
“This is what I get (from trainers): ‘Marlon Walls. Achilles. We’ll know more later.’ It’s like Tom Brokaw or something. I don’t know. He’s out. The docs will go in and look at him, and we’ll see what it is.
“I wish I could tell you more. But we go in there wondering, too, saying, ‘I hope it’s not bad.’”
The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Walls has been considered the most likely starter opposite sophomore Montori Hughes. Walls was suspended indefinitely from the program last month following a bar fight near campus despite not being charged in the matter.
Dooley said he would consider moving a defensive end inside to help the Vols’ depth problems, but whether any of them could help is a legitimate question. UT has plenty of defensive ends despite Martin’s injury, but they’re largely a collection of lighter speed rushers.
Junior Malik Jackson, a transfer from Southern Cal, is the heaviest end at just 265 pounds.
“I’ve basically been a defensive end the whole time, but I guess they’ve talked about (tackle) in pass-rush stuff,” Jackson said. “But wherever I can get playing time is wherever I can get playing time. I’m not really pick. I’m just trying to learn and get to the next level.
“We’re light. That’s different, especially where I came from at USC. We had a lot of big people. But these guys are really skilled, even with our size, so we’re going to be fine.”
Dooley might not have many options but to move someone, though. Aside from Hughes and Walls, UT doesn’t have any experienced, proven tackles. Junior college signee John Brown could provide a boost, but he hasn’t qualified academically and hasn’t reported to Knoxville.
“If we ever get to that point ... a lot of it has to do with bulk, whether they can hold up or not,” Dooley said. “There’s some different techniques, too. But certainly if there’s that situation, we’ll look into it.”
The Vols practiced in shoulder pads for the first time Saturday, and they’ll be in full pads for today’s 2:30 p.m. practice at Haslam Field. Their first scrimmage is scheduled for Tuesday.
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