COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tennessee could be starting its seventh different combination in the secondary with safety Micah Abernathy and cornerback Malik Foreman questionable to play Saturday.
A source close to the situation said Abernathy and Foreman have been limited in practice and might not be available in the Vols’ 7:15 p.m. game against South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium (TV: ESPN2).
Tennessee’s secondary has not started the same combination since the first two games of the season, and preseason All-SEC cornerback Cam Sutton suffered a fractured ankle in the third game of the season on Sept. 17 against Ohio.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones had freshman cornerback Baylen Buchanan on his coaches radio show, Vol Calls, Wednesday night, and he indicated Buchanan would be seeing more action.
Buchanan would be the likely starter in place of Foreman, who did not play against Alabama on Oct. 15 on account of an apparent shoulder injury suffered at Texas A&M on Oct. 8.
“It’s a big adjustment coming from high school to college football; the speed of the game is way different,” Buchanan said Wednesday. “Practice helps a lot. The coaches always preach that the little details matter the most.”
Jones also made a reference to things taking place in practice that fans didn’t know about when asked about safety Evan Berry playing snaps on offense.
Berry’s “role is continuing to grow defensively,” Jones said.
Berry would be in line to make his second start at safety in place of Abernathy, who appeared to suffer a pulled hamstring in the Vols’ loss to the Crimson Tide.
Tennessee knows it will be without tailback Alvin Kamara, who Jones said on Wednesday night will also miss the Tennessee Tech game on Nov. 5 on account of an unspecified knee injury.
Jones said “most” of the starting offensive linemen would be back for tonight’s game in Columbia, though he did not specify which ones.
Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. is the most notable starter returning from injury. Kirkland suffered a high ankle sprain in the Vols’ 45-24 win over No. 25-ranked Virginia Tech on Sept. 10.
Here’s a look at the different secondary combinations Tennessee has started this season:
AppState- Foreman, Moseley, Abernathy, Kelly, Sutton
V-Tech- Foreman, Moseley, Abernathy, Kelly, Sutton
Ohio- Gaulden, Moseley, Abernathy, Kelly, Sutton
Florida- Gaulden, Moseley, Abernathy, Kelly, Martin
Georgia- Bynum*, Foreman, Abernathy, Kelly, Moseley
TexasA&M- Gaulden, Moseley, Berry, Kelly, Foreman
Alabama- Gaulden, Buchanan, Abernathy, Kelly, Moseley
*Byum is a linebacker, the Vols started in a 4-3 set against Georgia