Tennessee doesn’t start fall camp for another three weeks, but the injuries are starting to pile up. Especially at wide receiver.
On Tuesday morning, head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh announced fifth-year senior Austin Rogers will miss the 2009 season with a torn knee ligament suffered last week during voluntary workouts. Later in the day, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin revealed in a radio interview that junior receiver Denarius Moore will likely miss “a couple” games due to a broken bone in his foot and receiver Gerald Jones, also a junior, will likely be limited through fall camp as he recovers from wrist surgery.
Kiffin told WNML that Moore would have a pin inserted in his foot during surgery today to repair a broken bone, while Jones has been slow to heal from offseason surgery and will have to wear a cast “most likely all the way through training camp.” Kiffin also said that Jones could possibly miss some games this fall.
All three players were expected to see playing time this fall, with Jones, one of UT’s most dynamic players on offense, listed as a starter coming out of spring practice and Moore as a possible starter. Rogers was listed as a backup, however he has started 19 games during his career for the Vols.
Moore will miss all of training camp, Kiffin said, and his absence could extend “well into the season.”
“We’ll try to find a way to move the ball otherwise,” Kiffin told WNML. “Those are really big losses for us, especially the receivers.”
Jones, who underwent surgery on June 10 to repair his injured left wrist, led the Vols last season with 30 catches for 323 yards, including four touchdowns. Moore was the Vols’ most consistent deep threat, picking up 271 yards on just 11 catches including a team-long 63-yard touchdown pass. Rogers, meanwhile, is UT’s most experienced receiver, and caught 14 passes last season for 180 yards.
Those injuries could open the door for players like Quintin Hancock, named UT’s most improved player this spring, as well as converted tight end Brandon Warren. Newcomers Nu’Keese Richardson, Zach Rogers and perhaps athlete Marsalis Teague will also see extended snaps in fall camp.
According to McVeigh, Austin Rogers tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Friday. Rogers is expected to undergo surgery in the coming weeks.
“It’s a huge blow,” quarterback Jonathan Crompton said. “Austin is one of the most experienced receivers we have. We’ve got to find somebody to replace him, and that’s what we’re doing starting today. We’ve got to find somebody and go from there. Obviously we wish him a speedy recovery.’’
Rogers, a fifth-year senior, could appeal to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. The Nashville native had already been granted a medical redshirt in 2006, when he injured his shoulder and a subsequent bout with mononucleosis kept him from returning to the lineup after playing in three games.
Without a successful appeal, Rogers’ career with the Vols would be over. Any appeal likely would come after Tennessee’s season ends.
The Vols’ recent history is mixed when it comes to extending the NCAA’s five-year eligibility clock.
Last season, cornerback Antonio Gaines was granted a sixth year after high school knee injury forced him to miss his freshman year in 2003 and another knee injury kept him from all but two games in 2007.
Also in 2007, tight end Brad Cottam was denied a sixth year after breaking his wrist in the final preseason scrimmage, although he played in UT’s final five games before being drafted in the third round by the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
True freshman tailback Toney Williams will also miss the upcoming season with a torn ACL suffered during offseason workouts.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.