Tennessee defenders, from right, Herman Lathers, Montori Hughes and Art Evans motion after a turnover in the Vols' 12-10 loss at Alabama in October. Lathers has emerged as a defensive threat, but it's the weekly health threat to his body that has him most concerned.
Herman Lathers doesn't exactly know all the details.
The Tennessee freshman hasn't made a decision on treatment.
There's also no guarantee each week he'll even be available to play.
Just about the only certainties at this point are Lathers will most likely need his spleen removed at the end of the season to deal with an undisclosed blood condition, and until then the Vols need him on the field to anchor the defense at middle linebacker. And through there are days the former might prevent the latter, UT will continue to operate under the assumption it will have the developing talent in the lineup again Saturday at Ole Miss (TV: WVLT, noon).
"I don't have too much of a great understanding of it," Lathers said. "I try not to think about it a lot of the time, honestly.
"It's just like I'm never able to know when I'm going to be able to play or when my platelets are low. I can just get through the rest of the season taking shots twice a week or for the rest of my time here taking shots twice a week, so after the season we're just going to sit down think about the options and see what we can do about it."
According to his doctors, the best chance for success might be removing the spleen, which is killing his platelets and keeping the count below the desired level of 100,000 in his blood. Lathers isn't completely sold on that idea, though, and since UT (5-4, 2-3 SEC) discovered the condition last year in a physical, he's been content to deal with it through pills and shots.
Sometimes that still isn't enough to get him cleared to play, and with two middle linebackers already out for the season, that could conceivably become an issue over the next few weeks.
"That's happened - we've had a number of Fridays where we've had to test him and we didn't know for sure where his count would be and whether he could play," UT coach Lane Kiffin said. "It makes it very difficult to prepare when he's a backup - now it's extremely difficult (as a starter).
"It's been a concern for a long time. He's getting tested all the time, (the count) will go up, then it will come down, and he's had to go through a lot of stuff. Sometimes he's had to take some shots that made him very sick for a while. He's really battled through it, and our doctors are looking at every possible option to do something to help."
The long-term outlook for Lathers is the most important factor at this point, and the Vols wouldn't jeopardize it just because they're lacking depth in the middle of the defense. But assuming he's able to play for the rest of the year without complication, the future certainly appears bright for him on the field as well.
In his first start Saturday against Memphis in place of Savion Frazier - himself a replacement for Nick Reveiz - Lathers handled all of the defensive calls without much trouble. He led the team with six tackles before the first team left the game early in the second half, showed solid instincts and flashed his impressive athleticism.
None of that was a surprise to UT since it has raved about his ability all season, but a pair of concussions added to the list of issues Lathers has dealt with trying to get on the field regularly. He's made it now, and the Vols would prefer to keep him there.
"He's really battled through it, had some injuries when we first got here and really has developed and potentially has a shot to be a really good player for us," Kiffin said. "Herman's speed really stood out (last week). He's so fast to the ball and he lined up for the most part really well during the game, so we're very pleased with his first start and how he performed.
"Now this will be a challenge because most likely he'll play more snaps, so he's got to continue to improve and take it to another level."
Another big challenge is likely coming his way after the season as well. But for now, those details can wait.