KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Will Shy Tuttle play? Where’s Kyle Phillips on the 2-deep roster? What about Alexis Johnson?
With Tennessee’s official Week 1 depth chart released, coach Butch Jones answered several questions about a trio of Volunteers defensive linemen on Saturday.
Tuttle was listed as the No. 2 tackle behind veteran Kendal Vickers, further indicating his recent rapid recovery from last season’s broken leg.
Once again, coach Butch Jones reiterated how “impressed” he’s been with Tuttle’s preseason progression, noting the 6-foot-2, 311-pound sophomore was able to participate in cut-blocking drills at a recent practice.
“It’s a challenge for a young man when you’re having a great year and your season is taken from you,” Jones said, referring to Tuttle’s season-ending injury against Georgia in 2015.
“He’s kept a positive mindset. He’s worked extremely hard. … He’s always kept a smile on his face.”
It remains to be seen if Tuttle actually will take the field on Thursday against Appalachian State, but it’s clear Tennessee believes he will make an impact sooner than later in 2016.
Meanwhile, Phillips was MIA on Saturday’s depth chart — odd considering how explosive the sophomore defensive end has looked in camp. Teammates raved about Phillips’ development this summer, but Jones explained that the lineman has been dinged up in recent days and missed several practices.
Tennessee hopes to have Phillips back as soon as Saturday’s afternoon workout.
“I’m excited about Kyle,” Jones said. “He’s continued to grow and develop. He’s been set back a little bit with some nagging injuries.”
Lastly, Johnson, a junior college transfer continues to work his way back into shape after missing the entire spring and most of training camp with an indefinite suspension. The defensive tackle has impressed Jones and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop with his potential, but Jones was coy on if Johnson would play Thursday.
“He continues to progress,” Jones said.
“He’s continued to be acclimated to our program. The standards. The expectations. He’s done a very good job moving forward. We’re constantly evaluating his conditioning levels, but he’s done a good job so far.”
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com