Star receiver Cedric Tillman reportedly had surgery following the Akron game a couple of weeks ago, according to ESPN’s Chris Low. Tillman underwent the “tightrope” procedure on his ankle, hoping to cut down his rehab time.
Tua Tagovailoa had the same procedure while he was at Alabama, returning 28 days later.
Per Low, here’s what the surgery looks like.
It uses a high strength suture (surgical thread) instead of traditional metal screws. Technically known as the Knotless Syndesmosis TightRope Implant System, the procedure is designed to accelerate recovery for high ankle sprains, particularly in athletes, and can decrease the chances of long-term damage that can occur with high ankle sprains.
Tennessee beat Florida last week with Tillman sidelined, and now has a bye week to further rehab the injury. They’ll travel to LSU next Saturday.
Tillman was the first Tennessee receiver to have 1,000 receiving yards since 2012, when Justin Hunter did it. He was set for another big statistical year, but a high ankle sprain could now cost him a few games of his senior season. If it took Tua a month to return, that would put Tillman in danger of missing both the LSU and Alabama matchups. 28 days post-surgery would be the Sunday after the Alabama game, for reference.
There’s a fine line here. You certainly don’t want to rush him back and cause further damage, but he’s a guy you’re going to have to have available if you want to beat Alabama. Just a guess, but I’d be surprised if they greenlight him to play next weekend in Baton Rouge.
The good news? Ramel Keyton is more than capable of filling in, even though you lose some of that big-play, 50-50 ball ability. Keyton proved his worth against Florida, making one of the biggest plays in the game. The staff also did a really nice job of scheming up some open throw to Bru McCoy, Jacob Warren and Jabari Small.
Tennessee is more than capable of handling things at LSU without Tillman in the fold. Alabama should be the target — and even that may be pushing it. Everyone is different, and this all comes down to how Tillman handles the rehab process.