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.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, Tennessee’s receiving corps would’ve had no luck at all in 2014.
Josh Smith is out for the year with a severe ankle injury sustained in early September, while Marquez North won’t play again this season because of a shoulder injury. Little-used Cody Blanc also sustained a season-ending Achilles injury, while Von Pearson missed games earlier in the year because of a high-ankle sprain.
Wes Rucker of GoVols.com is reporting that, according to UT receivers coach Zach Azzanni, Jason Croom will not play in the Gator Bowl against Iowa. Croom sustained a knee injury during practice earlier this week.
It’s unclear if it’s the same knee Croom injured late last month. What’s also unclear is the specific nature of the injury.
“It’s very disappointing,” Azzanni said. “I feel sorry for him. Here’s a guy that’s busted his tail and gotten better all season long and done everything I asked of him. Just doesn’t say a word and works his tail off. The game gets taken away here at the end, one he’d love to play in. First bowl game.”
Among receivers with 10 or more catches, Croom leads the team in yards per catch at 14.5, while he’s fourth in receiving yards (305) and tied for sixth in receptions (21). His four receiving touchdowns are tied for first on the team.
When it comes to injury luck, Tennessee wide receivers have had little of it in 2014. Josh Smith is out for the year with a severe ankle injury sustained in early September, while Marquez North (missed the Mizzou game last week) and Von Pearson (missed games earlier in the year) have battled health issues as well.
Tuesday, that unit may have taken yet another hit as Jason Croom went down with what appeared to be a knee injury. The severity and specific nature, however, remains a matter of debate.
Head coach Butch Jones described it as a cramp in his hamstring and hip. The Chattanooga Times Free-Press wrote “it looked much worse [than a hamstring] when he went down” after “grabbing his left knee,” while 247Sports.com‘s Wes Rucker noted that Croom grabbed his knee when he dropped to the turf in pain and that Jones’ injury reports are “a bit … shall we say … questionable from time to time” — with a video clip of the GEICO “Pinocchio is a bad motivational speaker” to drive home that latter point.
Regardless, Croom didn’t practice Wednesday and his availability for the in-state rivalry game against Vanderbilt Saturday is unknown.
Among receivers with 10 or more catches, Croom leads the team in yards per catch at 14.5, while he’s fourth in receiving yards (305) and tied for sixth in receptions (21). His four receiving touchdowns are tied for first on the team, and he’s caught at least one scoring pass in each of the last three games.
Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead in Athens, but it is the Georgia Bulldogs with all of the momentum at the halftime break. Georgia scored 21 straight points, but Tennessee scored a late touchdown to cut into the lead. Georgia leads 21-17 at the half.
The Vols started hot and caught Georgia napping. Two nine-play drives for Tennessee ended with points on the board. First a 46-yard field goal by Aaron Medley on the opening drive of the game, and then a short touchdown run by quarterback Justin Worley.
Todd Gurley has been having a little bit of an impact for the Bulldogs, as you would expect. At the half Gurley has rushed for 70 yards and scored one touchdown. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason has been productive as well with 122 passing yards and one passing and one rushing touchdown each.
Georgia looked to take a 21-10 lead to the half, but Tennessee orchestrated a late 83-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Worley touchdown pass to Jason Croom. Tennessee has spread the ball around with eight different receivers in the first half.