I'm not sure if this is an old saying or not, but it probably should be: nothing good can happen to your football team in the summertime.
At least, nothing tangible. Leadership, strength training, all that stuff is good. Things like voluntary 7-on-7s can be excellent tools for building a solid football team. But something in those workouts or elsewhere has cost Tennessee its best linebacker for at least part of the 2011 season. Herman Lathers suffered a fractured ankle earlier this week, and obviously nothing about this is good. Had we done one of those jinx-bait "Which players can Tennessee least afford to lose?" lists, Herman's name would've definitely been on it.
Lathers already redshirted in 2008, then was forced into action in 2009 when injuries struck the entire LB corps. He's been one of the Vols' best linebackers since then and would've definitely been the pick for the Vols' best returning linebacker this fall. He was second on the team in tackles last season, and has experience playing in the middle and on the outside. With the graduation of Nick Reveiz and LaMarcus Thompson, Lathers was the only returning starter in the fold. If the injury is worse than expected/reported, he'll need an exemption to pickup another redshirt, or else he'll lose his junior year entirely.
The Vols do have plenty of bodies at linebacker - Austin Johnson and Daryl Vereen were the other two starters coming out of spring practice, and Greg King, Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, John Propst, and Shane Reveiz have all seen meaningful action in the past. Lathers' injury will also speed up the development of incoming freshmen A.J. Johnson and Christian Harris, and may have a thing or two to say about whether Curt Maggitt plays DE or LB.
Tennessee will have all of fall camp to figure out which three guys will fill the holes at linebacker. But more importantly, we send our thoughts and prayers to Lathers - this is a tough deal, but we have no doubt he'll find his feet again soon.