Butch Jones: Jennings out indefinitely; others could miss Saturday's game

Butch Jones: Jennings out indefinitely; others could miss Saturday's game

September 7th, 2017 by Rob Harvey in Sports - College

Tennessee defensive lineman Kendal Vickers was one of four players listed as questionable by Vols coach Butch Jones heading into Saturday's home opener against Indiana State.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

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KNOXVILLE — Tennessee won its football season opener Monday night, but the Volunteers accumulated some bruises against Georgia Tech that could keep a few players out of Saturday's home opener against Indiana State.

On Wednesday, coach Butch Jones announced junior receiver Jauan Jennings is out indefinitely. Jones also noted kick returner Evan Berry, receiver Josh Smith and defensive tackles Kendal Vickers and Shy Tuttle are questionable for the 4 p.m. game.

"They'll be available for some part of practice today," Jones said of the four players he listed as questionable. "Some we'll keep in for treatments and just get out there for team periods, and I'll know a little more later on in the week. But there is a possibility that they could play.

"In terms of Jauan's injury, it's indefinite and that's all I can say at this particular time. I can't get into specifics."

After returning the first two kickoffs of Monday's game, Berry was absent on the last two as freshman Ty Chandler replaced him. Vickers was injured late in the fourth quarter and did not return, while neither Smith nor Tuttle played at all.

Jennings was injured on a pass across the middle in the first half when a defender hit him in the wrist. Jennings caught the pass but immediately went to the sideline and later left the field.

Sophomore receiver Marquez Callaway stepped up in Jennings' absence by making four second-half catches, including two touchdowns. Callaway expects Jennings to continue helping the team, even though he's out.

"He'll still be in the meeting room with us, helping us and coaching us up," Callaway said. "That's the only part of him we're going to miss, just his physicalness on the outside."

Quick turnaround

The Vols have to prepare quickly for their second game in six days, and Jones said they spent Tuesday receiving injury treatment in the training room and studying video.

That left three days to practice for the Sycamores (0-1), a Missouri Valley Conference program that lost 22-20 to Eastern Illinois in its opener.

Tennessee players seemed more than ready for another game.

"I don't think it's really affecting us at all," quarterback Quinten Dormady said. "It's just making sure we're getting in the training room, getting our health back and then locking in for Saturday."

The quick turnaround could be more daunting for the defense after Georgia Tech ran 95 offensive plays. However, defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo said the Vols will be ready because of their advance preparation for Indiana State.

"I don't think it will affect us much," Kongbo said. "We've kind of prepared for Indiana State, so we just have to roll into it."

Bituli's advantage

After playing almost all of Monday's game at the Sam (strongside) linebacker position, Daniel Bituli will now move back primarily to a Mike (middle) linebacker position as the Vols transition to using a 4-3 defensive front less.

Bituli recorded 23 tackles against the Yellow Jackets — whose option-heavy flexbone offense necessitated the Vols using a 4-3 more often — after having just nine tackles in reserve action last season. He was listed as the starting Sam linebacker on this week's depth chart, though Jones said Bituli could appear in both positions.

"The advantage now is that he can play both Sam and Mike," Jones said. "He's going to come in and compete. It's great — you can never have too much competition — so he will play more Mike against a traditional offense."

Contact Rob Harvey at sports@timesfreepress.com.