KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones has spent the past two weeks sprinkling optimism over the prospects of tailback Alvin Kamara and cornerback Cam Sutton being back for Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
Until Wednesday, when the head coach disclosed that both will be “game-time decisions.”
The injury updates were one of three surprising revelations from the day’s press conferences at the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio.
1. Injury uncertainties
“I anticipate both Alvin and Cameron being game-time situations,” Jones said, asked about the injured pair of captains. “You could see the excitement on the practice field with them being out there and ready to practice. But those will be game-time decisions”
Tennessee players have spoke excitedly about Kamara’s practice performances while referencing the leadership Sutton brings back to the team.
Jones also disclosed that he’s not sure about the playing status of starting right tackle Chance Hall, and that
junior college defensive tackle transfer Alexis Johnson “is not anywhere close to helping.”
Johnson was set to return for the Oct. 15 game against Alabama before injuring his hip in practice.
2. Jonathan Kongbo’s immaturity
Tennessee’s No. 1-ranked junior college transfer has been the team’s No. 1 social media distraction from the time he committed, de-committed, finally signed and most recently balked at moving inside in the best interests of the team.
Kongbo looks the part at 6-foot-6 and 284 pounds, but UT’s deepest position has been defensive end, so his snaps have been limited there.
The defensive tackle position, meanwhile, has been ravaged by injuries, leading to 258-pound end Kyle Phillips moving inside and most recently fifth-year senior end LaTroy Lewis (256 pounds) has moved inside to tackle.
Jones revealed Wednesday that Kongbo has maturity issues that he’s trying to get through.
“I think just consistency and buying into the team concept,” Jones said, asked what he sees for Kongbo moving forward. “What’s required on a daily basis.
“A lot of times with individuals they go through a growth and a maturity, just like your own kids.”
3. 2016 has made Jones better
It only makes sense, and when one looks at Jones’ track record, it’s clear he’s a fast learner. Jones has won as many or more games from one regular season to the other at every school he has been at.
“It’s great illustration of sudden change, and what can happen despite the greatest laid plans,” Jones said, referring to 18 Tennessee starters missing at least one start due to injuries and/or attrition. “It’s made me a better person and a better coach, being able to deal with the adversity and having the resolve.
“This football team for the most part has been very consistent, and I’ve enjoyed being around them every day.”