Kyle Phillips

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Tennessee to open spring without safety Micah Abernathy, seven others

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The Tennessee Volunteers may need to start asking for volunteers to get through the spring if the start of the offseason practice schedule is any suggestion. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced eight players on Tennessee’s roster will be ruled out for the start of spring practices. A handful of others will be limited as well.

According to Saturday Down South, those players are safety Micah Abernathy, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, defensive linemen Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle and Kendal Vickers, wide receivers Josh Smith and Brandon Johnson, and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. The reason for those players being listed as out is not reported, but Jones suggested they are simply not in shape to go all in this spring at this point.

“We need to get them back at full strength,” Jones said. “I do think there will be competition.”

While these players may be down and out for the spring, there is no reason to fear they may be unavailable in the fall. Jones seems optimistic all players will be back and ready to go over the summer, which should be an encouraging sign. Abernathy also tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.

Abernathy was Tennessee’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 69 tackles, including a team-high 52 solo tackles.

Six Vols out for spring football, six more limited

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Things are looking up for Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones. The Vols just pulled in a highly-respected recruiting class to follow the “brick-by-brick” mantra in Knoxville, and it may just be a matter of time before Tennessee is back to being a force in the SEC East on a regular basis. That said, there will be a good number of players missing or limited during Tennessee’s spring practice schedule.

Defensive ends Derek Barnett and Kyle Phillips, defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and wide receiver Jason Croom are all expected to be out of action this spring, Jones announced on Friday. In addition to that list, Jones suggested tight end Alex Ellis could also be out for the spring.

Croom injured his knee during bowl practices leading up to Tennessee’s match-up with Iowa. Ellis, a senior, was recently awarded a scholarship by Tennessee.

To further deplete the available depth in the spring, Jones also listed a handful of players that could be limited at best this spring. Wide receiver Marquez North, running back Jalen Hurd, offensive lineman Chance Hall, defensive end Corey Vereen, defensive lineman Charles Mosley, linebacker Dillon Bates and cornerback Rashaan Gaulden were those mentioned as limited this spring by the head coach.

North played in 10 games last season and missed playing time due to a shoulder injury. Hurd was Tennessee’s leading rusher in 2014 with 899 yards and five touchdowns.