KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is a month away from its season-opening football game, but the Volunteers already have lost one returning starter to a year-ending injury.
Junior offensive tackle Chance Hall will miss the 2017 season, coach Butch Jones announced after Tennessee's fifth preseason practice Friday night.
Hall, who has battled injuries throughout his career, will need surgery on his knee and is expected to receive a medical redshirt.
"He'll come back and be stronger than ever for it," Jones said.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman missed his senior football season at Northside High School in Roanoke, Va., in 2014 with a torn Achilles' tendon.
Tennessee stuck with him, and Hall rehabilitated well enough to play in 10 games and start seven as a true freshman in 2015.
"He was in a tough situation coming in some meaningful games and having to play as a true freshman," Jones said. "Chance is a competitor. It's very unfortunate. But he'll bounce back and he'll be better for it."
The Vols have developed more depth on the offensive line since Hall's arrival, and that should soften the blow of his absence this season.
Redshirt sophomore Drew Richmond and redshirt senior Brett Kendrick are experienced returning tackles, while senior center Coleman Thomas also has played the position. True freshman Trey Smith, who has been playing guard in preseason camp, is projected long-term as a tackle.
Without Hall, there are six returning players with starting experience on the offensive line and seven who have played in key situations. Smith's addition to the group provides additional cushion, as he is expected to be an immediate contributor.
"I think we have a lot of depth this year on the offensive line, and we have a lot of experience as well," senior defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said. "They're a well-oiled machine right now."
Smith, Kendrick and sophomore offensive tackle Marcus Tatum missed Friday's practice, but Jones said they all will return at some point in the next several days.
"Nothing significant," Jones said. "Some kind of precautionary to hold them out."
The line is expected to be an asset for an offense that is replacing three of its top five receivers and quarterback Joshua Dobbs from last year's 9-4 team.
Hall had knee surgery during preseason practice last year and missed the first three games, but he returned against Florida and started six games before more knee issues ended his season.
Jones said it's too early to know if Hall could return in time for spring practice.
"We'll cross that bridge when it comes," Jones said.
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.