Tennessee is set to open SEC play this weekend in Gainesville against the Florida Gators (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Volunteers have several question-marks entering this one on the injury front, and Josh Heupel gave a few updates on Thursday.
First things first — the quarterback position. Joe Milton missed the Tennessee Tech game after leaving before halftime against Pittsburgh. Hendon Hooker played in his place, and played well enough to wonder if Heupel would even go back to Milton once he’s healthy. Tennessee still listed Milton atop the depth chart, for what that’s worth, but his health is still in question as of Thursday.
“Joe’s gotten some work here during the course of the week,” Heupel said Thursday. “We’ll find out more tomorrow with him. But some of the other guys that maybe you didn’t see last week, (we) anticipate most of those guys being able to play, though, when we get down to Gainesville.”
Part of that group that Heupel mentioned is starting center Cooper Mays, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Josh Heupel said today that he expects Mays to return to the lineup against the Gators. Jerome Carvin has filled in for him at center, and he’s now expected to kick back out to guard.
“Pleased with a lot of what he’s done,” Heupel said of Carvin. “Anticipate Coop being back with us and Jerome being able to slide over.”
Another key injury was running back Jabari Small, who went down against Pittsburgh. Tiyon Evans was able to return last week, so the Tennessee backfield could be back to full strength.
Starting middle linebacker Juwan Mitchell was a surprise inactive for the Tennessee Tech game, and no reason was given for his absence. Heupel was noncommittal on his status entering the weekend.
“He’s been able to be with us on the grass a little bit this week,” Heupel said of Mitchell. “We’ll see where he’s at when we get through tomorrow and then be able to determine where he’s going to be.”
Defensive linemen LaTrell Bumphus, Da’Jon Terry and Bryson Eason are also coming off of injury. Punter Paxton Brooks missed the Tennessee Tech game last week. Offensive linemen Cade Mays and Kingston Harrison were dinged up during last Saturday’s matchup.
So there’s plenty to follow leading up to this one. Expect some sort of update in the hours leading up to kickoff on Saturday night.