KNOXVILLE - The star receiver was already done for the year, and now the starting quarterback's out for five to six weeks.
To make matters more challenging for Tennessee's football team, a visit from top-ranked LSU and a trip to second-ranked Alabama loom in the next two weeks.
"I told the team, it's going to be doom and gloom around here - let's just call it like it is - because of what's happened," second-year Volunteers' coach Derek Dooley said at his weekly news conference on Monday. "We've had some tough luck, and it will be doom and gloom if we don't correct some of the things that affect how we're playing. If we, you know, put our head down or we don't go out there and play the best we can play, it will be doom and gloom.
"We're going to get annihilated. But if we go out there and compete like we're capable of and not lose composure, we'll see what happens."
With starter quarterback Tyler Bray on the shelf with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, senior Matt Simms takes control of the Vols' offense. Simms was benched in favor of Bray early in the second half of the loss at South Carolina last October, but Dooley and his teammates have been very complimentary of how Simms handled that situation.
"Matt's been great, and I'm proud of Matt to this point because we all know how disappointed he was last year when we made the switch," Dooley said. "It's tough to sit there and watch the other guy go in and light it up, which is what Tyler did. And of course, then it's the talk of is he coming back, is he transferring.
"I told Matt we were going to need him this year. Most of the time you need your two. I was hoping we wouldn't, but we need him. And that's why he's here. He brings a lot of leadership ability. He's been in the fire before. He's got a real good command of the offense, and he's prepared every week like he's a starter. So this is his time and we'll see how he does."
Starting tailback Tauren Poole is day to day with a hamstring strain, Dooley said.
True freshman Justin Worley will be UT's backup quarterback behind Simms.
Dooley the Vols have looked at changes on the offensive line in hopes of improving UT's Southeastern Conference-worst rushing attack, but he didn't indicate there would be any against the Tigers. The coach added the Vols have explored allowing center James Stone to do shotgun snaps with his more natural left hand.
UT's game at Alabama on Oct. 22 will start at 7:15 p.m. and be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.
For more from today's media day and for updates throughout the week, check out the Times Free Press print edition or follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...