Highlights from the Vols' practice - Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
Promising Tennessee freshman defensive end Corey Vereen underwent successful knee surgery on Thursday and is expected to return to play this season, coach Butch Jones said Friday night.
Jones said Vereen could return in “five to six weeks,” although “each individual is different with the healing process.”
“I know one thing about him,” Jones said. “He’s very motivated to get back, and that helps with the healing process.”
The News Sentinel reported earlier Friday that Vereen had suffered a sprain of the medial collateral ligament of his right knee. The MCL is a ligament attached to the meniscus.
Jones said Vereen suffered the injury in Tuesday’s practice, one same day after defensive end Jacques Smith broke his thumb.
Vereen was expected to push for playing time at the “Leo” end spot, which is a linebacker-end hybrid position meant to take advantage of speedy and athletic linemen.
Vereen’s absence comes at a bad time.
Smith, who was the starting Leo end, underwent surgery for a fractured thumb on his right hand on Wednesday. Smith is expected to miss four to six weeks, although Jones said there was at least a chance he could return by the Aug. 31 opener against Austin Peay.
Smith wore a hard cast from hand to elbow on Friday. He still donned a jersey, working the sidelines as a cheerleader.
Vereen graduated from high school early and enrolled at UT in January, and coaches raved about his performance in spring practice.
Tennessee defensive line coach and associate head coach Steve Stripling, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience, said Vereen was one of the hardest-working young players he’d ever coached.
“I love him,” Stripling said. “I promise you, at nine o’clock at night you’ll find him in (the football complex) doing something. He is the most motivated freshman I’ve ever seen in my career. He is unbelievable.”
Junior Jordan Williams was listed as Smith’s backup on the preseason depth chart. Other options could be veterans Marlon Walls and Corey Miller and freshman Jaylen Miller.
Williams described Vereen as a “hard worker” who had made an impact in a short time.
“You’re never going to see him not give all his effort,” Williams said.
Williams said he felt “better conditioned” than at any point in his career and felt prepared to step up into Smith’s role. He worked with the first team Friday.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.