HOOVER, Ala. -- Shy Tuttle was developing into a key piece of Tennessee's defense last season when he suffered a significant injury in the win against Georgia.
The big defensive tackle suffered a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments against the Bulldogs, and the road to recovery for the 300-pounder never was going to be short or easy.
The Volunteers remain encouraged with Tuttle's progress and hope he'll be available when the season kicks off in September.
"We're hopeful," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Tuesday at SEC media days. "Right now he'll actually start running next week. He's gone through all the strength and conditioning activities, but for him, it's going to be how much he can handle. I see him more being available maybe toward the middle of training camp.
"The thing we can't do it rush it. (Head trainer) Jason McVeigh and our training staff have done a great job, and Shy has done a great job of getting to this point of where he's at. I think we'll know day by day when training camp hits, but we just have to do a great job of monitoring his activity."
Tuttle's possible return would be a boost for Tennessee's defensive line, which is flirting with trouble at defensive tackle.
In addition to Tuttle's situation, junior college transfer Alexis Johnson remains suspended, Jones said Tuesday, following his arrest for assault in February. The charges eventually were reduced. Johnson's status for the season is unknown.
Kendal Vickers, Danny O'Brien and Kahlil McKenzie give the Vols three solid options, and sophomore Quay Picou could carve out playing time if he continues to develop.
Tennessee also could slide some of their larger defensive ends inside in certain situations if necessary.
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