Tennessee's struggles in the passing game will face an even steeper climb this week: senior OG Vladimir Richard is out with a knee injury and is on crutches, and WR Quintin Hancock has a broken jaw and will miss this week and then some.
Richard, who has been hampered throughout the month with achilles tendon and knee issues, will see his absence filled by Jarrod Shaw moving inside from tackle to guard, meaning redshirt freshman and converted tight end Aaron Douglas will see his first start at tackle on Saturday night. Douglas has played a handful of snaps in Tennessee's first three games.
Hancock has been Tennessee's most reliable wide receiver since spring practice, and leads the team with 11 catches for 128 yards this season. No other wide receiver has caught more than six passes.
Lane Kiffin stressed yesterday that Jonathan Crompton needed to play well this week, and the downgrade from Florida to Ohio in terms of defensive talent should allow the passing game to open things up more, even if only a little bit. But now with an offensive lineman and the leading pass catcher out, it'll be an even more interesting re-evaluation of Tennessee's passing game on Saturday.
Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore have the experience, but one still wonders if either is fully healthy. Freshman Marsalis Teague caught six passes in the opener but hasn't seen one since. Brandon Warren and Nu'Keese Richardson are still more hype than result. And thus far, Tennessee's third, fourth and fifth leading receivers are tailback Bryce Brown, fullback Kevin Cooper, and tight end Luke Stocker. The Vols need increased productivity from the WR position, and in Hancock's absence the competition will be more wide open than ever...who will step up?