You got the sense that it wasn’t good when it happened, and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel confirmed those fears on Monday. Tennessee wide receiver Dont’e Thornton will miss the final two games of the regular season after suffering a ‘lower body injury’ while catching a touchdown against Missouri.
The lanky downfield threat was just beginning to show us something on the field after battling back from a couple of injuries earlier in the season. His 6-5 frame and speed seemed like a great fit on the surface with Joe Milton’s arm, but it just never got going this season.
Our one big flash came on Saturday, with Thornton making a spectacular grab in the endzone for the score. Unfortunately, that was also the play that ended his regular season.
Heupel did leave the door open for a return for the bowl game, so the injury at least doesn’t sound like it will be anything that affects him long term. He will certainly be missed on Saturday though, as Tennessee welcomes No. 2 Georgia to town.
Ramel Keyton and Squirrel White will remain the top two targets for Tennessee, but Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb are going to be forced into bigger roles in the last two games. Tight ends McCallan Castles and Jacob Warren could also get a little more involved.
After an offseason full of hype, Thornton’s 2023 regular season ends with just 13 catches for 224 yards. He scored his lone touchdown on Saturday.
Just a junior, Thornton will have a chance for a do-over season in 2024. All the tools are there — hopefully he can put it all together and stay healthy next fall.