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Bryce Thompson’s suspension is just the latest blow to Tennessee’s defense

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It won’t be good if he misses a lot of time.

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

News flash: Bryce Thompson is good.

He’s one of the best — if not the best — players on the Vols defense. He led the team with three interceptions in 2018 and was named to the Freshman All-American team.

Over the summer, I posted a piece that discussed the most indispensable Vols on defense, and Bryce Thompson was number one. We also did a countdown of the most important players in an overall sense, and Thompson finished sixth on that list.

Well, Thompson was arrested this past Saturday night and charged with domestic assault. On Monday, Jeremy Pruitt announced that he will be suspended indefinitely for the incident.

What happened between the sophomore defensive back and his girlfriend is still unknown, but witnesses claim that Thompson threatened to shoot up the school, which adds a different layer to the situation.

Obviously, this is not good news for Tennessee. It’s not just about the assault charge, either. Even if Thompson’s girlfriend doesn’t decide to press charges, he may have to face repercussions for the threat to shoot up the school.

He doesn’t go to court until September 3, which is after the Georgia State game. You can probably go ahead and count him out for that one. Next up is BYU, which is a pretty important game on the schedule. There’s little doubt that Thompson’s absence wouldn’t be felt during the second game of the season.

There’s even a possibility that the suspension could linger past Week 2. Thompson’s potential exit would leave the Vols with a major hole in the secondary on a defense that needs every horse it can get. Tennessee will still have a talented defensive backfield with Alontae Taylor, Trevon Flowers, Warren Burrell, and others — but Thompson is the defensive back on the team and allows the others to make plays of their own.

This is really bad timing, too. The Vols are less than a week away from playing the first game of the 2019 season. Now, they will have to deal with a “will-he-or-won’t-he” type of situation for the foreseeable future. The good news is the younger players will get a chance to step up and show what they can do, but it’s very unlikely that any of them will have the impact that Thompson will have if/when this blows over.

The fact that Thompson threatened to shoot up the school will likely leave the final decision in the hands of the university, which will probably leave us with an uncertain timetable when it comes to Thompson’s return.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Vols are down three, maybe even four starters on defense for opening day.

Ain’t it great to be a Tennessee Vol?