KNOXVILLE - Tennessee sorely missed freshman tight end Ethan Wolf in Saturday night's loss at No. 4 Oklahoma, but the Volunteers hope to have him back for the trip to Georgia following an open date this week.
Wolf traveled with the Vols and participated in warmups before Tennessee's 34-10 loss to the Sooners, but the knee injury he suffered the previous week against Arkansas State kept him on the sideline.
Fellow freshman Daniel Helm earned his first career start, and Brendan Downs and Alex Ellis also played in Wolf's absence, but Tennessee's tight ends went without a catch after Wolf caught eight balls in the season's first two games.
"The game plan was a little bit different just because of the different nuances of how they match different personnel groupings," Vols coach Butch Jones said after the loss, "so every different game plan has a different flavor to it.
"I'll go back and watch the video again and see how we performed, but any time Ethan Wolf doesn't play, it hurts you, just because he's a talented young man.
"I thought Daniel Helm gained some valuable, valuable in-game experience and some valuable repetitions tonight."
Not having their best blocking tight end didn't help, either, as the Vols often used a tight end in pass protection to help their young offensive line against Oklahoma's overwhelming defensive front.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Wolf did some light running and cutting last week, and now he'll have two weeks to get back healthy for Tennessee's trip to Athens.
"He did a good job of getting himself where he could possibly play," Jones said, "but as the game went on -- and we have tremendous confidence in the other three tight ends -- it was a situation of he would benefit, obviously, by not playing, and we thought that was for his benefit and for the long-term success of our football team as well."
Receiver Von Pearson is unlikely to be ready for the Georgia game as he continues to recover from his high ankle sprain.
Another wideout injured
Josh Smith left Saturday night's game early in the fourth quarter after Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker rolled up on his legs while tackling the sophomore receiver.
It's believed Smith suffered a high ankle sprain and could miss a couple of weeks, but there's been no official word on the extent of his injury.
The 6-1, 200-pounder from Knoxville had a career-high five receptions for 58 yards against the Sooners and caught the second touchdown pass of his college career. For the season, Smith has 10 catches for 135 yards, good for third and second on the team in those respective categories.
Upon further review
Tennessee managed just 108 yards on 31 first-down plays Saturday night, and that includes freshman tailback Jalen Hurd's 43-yard run late in the third quarter.
The struggles on first down made for a long night on third down, as Tennessee averaged more than 9 yards to go on its third downs and faced 10 situations of third-and-10 or longer.
The Vols had 15 plays of lost yardage, including nine in the first half.
Oklahoma rolled up 454 yards of offense, but Tennessee's defense will see plenty of positives from how it played against the Sooners' versatile attack.
The Vols continued to be efficient on third downs, as they allowed Oklahoma to convert just three of 12 third downs in the game, including zero in five thirds in the second half.
Through three weeks, Tennessee is third in the country in third-down defense, holding opponents to 10-of-43 conversions.
The Vols also held Oklahoma to two early red-zone field goals.
"Any team is going to have their big plays," freshman defensive end Derek Barnett said. "They're a good team. They had their fair share of plays, but you don't want to let them get in the end zone. If they kick a field goal, that's good for us."
What wasn't good for Tennessee was the big plays it allowed, including a couple that involved busts in the secondary. The Sooners had six plays of 20-plus yards that accounted for 194 yards. Four of those came on drives in which Oklahoma scored 24 points.
Tennessee linebackers A.J. Johnson (29 tackles) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (25) currently rank first and third in the SEC in tackles. ... Johnson's 11-tackle night against Oklahoma was the 19th double-digit performance of his 39-game career. ... Tennessee tailback commitment Alvin Kamara, who redshirted at Alabama in 2013, has 356 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries in three games for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College this season after his third 100-yard game Saturday.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.