KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee strongside linebacker Austin Smith has suffered a knee injury and might not be available for Monday’s game, according to a team source.
The No. 25-ranked Vols play Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. on Monday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Smith’s injury could trigger another juggling of the linebacking corps, which lost star middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland to season-ending knee surgery last Wednesday.
Coach Butch Jones has not been scheduled to meet with the media since Smith’s injury occurred in Friday’s practice during a “thud” (non-tackling) period.
Injuries were the storyline for the Vols last season, as they led the nation with 52 starts missed on account of injuries, starting eight different linebacking corps in the process.
Tennessee has been working in a 4-3 alignment in preparation for the Yellow Jackets offense, which features the triple option.
The Vols were originally looking at Colton Jumper at strongside linebacker, Kirkland in the middle and Cortez McDowell at the weakside linebacker spot.
When Kirkland went down, Jumper was moved inside to middle linebacker and Smith was elevated to starting strong side linebacker.
If Smith misses Monday’s game – which seems likely — senior Elliott Berry or redshirt junior Dillon Bates would be two candidates to play strongside linebacker against Georgia Tech.
Sophomore Daniel Bituli is coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss the start of fall camp.
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said Friday before practice that Tennessee planned to play several linebackers, and that Bates could also play in the middle.
Tennessee’s other option on Monday night is to scrap the 4-3 and line up in the 4-2-5 alignment, their base last season.
The Vols will also be without projected starting left tackle Drew Richmond, who is suspended for a violation of team rules.
Jones said senior receiver Josh Smith (shoulder) might play, while defensive tackles Shy Tuttle (knee) and Alexis Johnson (strain) are questionable.
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