KNOXVILLE — Coach Derek Dooley isn’t ready to discuss publicly what Tennessee would do if left offensive tackle Dallas Thomas’s ankle doesn’t heal before Saturday’s game at Georgia.
“I don’t have an option right now,” Dooley said. “Right now, we’d play with four [linemen]. The option is we’ve got to heal his ankle before tomorrow so we can practice. If we don’t, we’re going to have to figure something out.”
The Vols don’t have a backup left tackle. One option would be to slide true freshman Ja’Wuan James over from right tackle, shift senior right guard Jarrod Shaw to James’ place and insert true freshman Zach Fulton in Shaw’s spot.
A decent fourth-quarter performance in Saturday’s loss at LSU has left Dooley reluctant to tinker with anything, though, considering how most of the season has gone with a thin, inexperienced group.
“Obviously if we knew [Thomas] was out, we’d have to reshuffle and re-teach a lot of stuff,” Dooley said. “What I don’t want to do is get in a panic, move this guy to the left side, slide this guy over, and then we teach it for two days and, ‘Oh, Dallas is back. Move them back.’
“We’re getting a little continuity. I don’t want to mess that up.”
Dooley said junior center Cody Pope [stinger] and redshirt freshman left guard JerQuari Schofield [foot], both starters, wouldn’t return for the Georgia game. Schofield’s target return date has always been the Oct. 23 game against top-ranked Alabama, but coaches hoped to have Pope back this week.
Asked if there was “anything new” on Pope’s condition — he hasn’t played since the Sept. 11 loss to Oregon — Dooley said: “It’s the longest stinger injury in the history of college football. That’s what’s new.
“It might be because he doesn’t eat meat,” Dooley joked about Pope, a vegetarian from Southern California. “I’m starting to think that red meat and chicken is the cure for stingers. That’s my conclusion.
“We’re out of any other medical options, so I’m going to try and force a steak down him tonight.”
More walking wounded
Dooley said senior defensive end Gerald Williams should play Saturday, but he’ll need a cast to cover the thumb he injured at LSU.
The coach said senior kicker Daniel Lincoln, who missed the LSU game with an injured “quad or thigh or whatever,” should return Saturday.
Sophomore safety Prentiss Waggner and senior defensive tackle Victor Thomas are “banged up,” according to Dooley, but they’re also expected back for the Georgia game.
“I’ll know more Wednesday on all those guys,” Dooley said.
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