Before spring practice could even begin, Josh Heupel was faced with his first difficult moment at Tennessee. Four Tennessee players were arrested on drug charges after an incident on campus during a weeknight.
The players were second-year linebacker Martavius French, freshman linebacker Aaron Willis, freshman defensive lineman Isaac Washington and freshman quarterback Kaidon Salter. The players have not been able to take part in spring practice to this point, setting each man back in the battle for playing time this fall.
“Any of the guys that have had those issues, no final word on any of that yet,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said on Friday. “We’re going to stay with those kids (like) I told you in the beginning, support those kids through the process. Once we have a final decision on all those guys, we’ll communicate that with you.”
Per reporting from Volquest, Salter’s charges were dropped this week. The other three expect to have the same result.
“We hope that that process will be thorough and we’ll be able to work through it and get to the point where we’re able to communicate with you where our University stands,” Heupel said.
Obviously, Salter’s absence will hinder his ability to get into this quarterback race, which appears to be wide open with each man starting on equal footing in a new system. The former four-star prospect has raw physical tools that are exciting, and now is this time to make mistakes and learn.
Maybe the bigger blow has been the absence of Aaron Willis and Martavius French, however. Tennessee is razor thin at linebacker as things are, and losing two more bodies has been tough to deal with in the opening week of practice. The Vols have even worked long snapper Will Albright at the position, just to add a body to the rotation.
Expect these situations to be wrapped up soon. We’ll see if they make it to the practice field next week.