KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee sophomore defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie suffered an upper-body injury that could keep him out for an extended amount of time, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
McKenzie made his first career start in the 49-10 loss to Alabama on Saturday, stepping up in place of recently dismissed starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien.
The injury appeared to occur with 6 minutes left in the first quarter, when McKenzie made a diving tackle attempt on Ardarius Stewart as the Tide receiver ran an end around.
McKenzie was taken to the locker room for initial observation before the end of the first half and did not return to the game.
The Vols’ legacy player — the son of former UT star and current Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie — will undergo more tests before a course of action is determined.
Kendal Vickers, the Vols other starting defensive tackle, later left the game with an undisclosed injury.
Coach Butch Jones likely won’t be sending any thank-you cards to the SEC schedule-makers who lined up the Vols against four teams that were ranked in the Top 25 — Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama — in successive weeks before the team’s first bye week of the season.
“I’ve never been through a season like this where the injuries just continue to mount up,” a grim-faced Jones said after Saturday’s game. “But that’s the game of football and that’s recruiting and that’s development.”
With McKenzie out, the Vols first plugged in sophomore defensive tackle Shy Tuttle.
But after Tuttle, all that was left were undersized defensive ends Kyle Phillips and Quay Picou to take reps at defensive tackle, the larger Jonathan Kongbo apparently unwilling or unable to handle the physical play inside.
Junior college transfer Alexis Johnson was expected to see his first action at defensive tackle, but he sustained an undisclosed injury in the days leading up to the game.
The Vols injury list is staggering heading into the bye week, with sources confirming linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is likely out for the season, and the possibility that linebacker Cortez McDowell does not return from injury.
Earlier this season, linebacker Quart’e Sapp suffered a season-ending knee injury.
In the secondary, cornerback Cam Sutton remains out with a fractured ankle and safety Micah Abernathy appeared to suffer a pulled hamstring on Bo Scarbrough’s 85-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, UT center Dylan Wiesman and guard Jashon Robertson missed starts, and offensive tackles Chance Hall and Brett Kendrick left the Alabama game with injuries.
Tennessee injury/attrition list
(players in bold started a game)
DT Kahlil McKenzie (upper body), vs. Alabama
DT Kendal Vickers (unknown), vs. Texas A&M & vs. Alabama
DT Alexis Johnson (unknown), practice
CB Cam Sutton (broken ankle), vs. Ohio
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), vs. Ohio
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. (ankle), vs. Virginia Tech
LB Cortez McDowell (head), vs. Georgia
LB Quart’e Sapp (knee), vs. Ohio
CB Malik Foreman (unknown), unknown
S Micah Abernathy (hamstring), vs. Alabama
LG Jashon Robertson (leg), vs Texas A&M
C Dylan Wiesman (head), vs. Texas A&M
LT Brett Kendrick (ankle), vs. Alabama
RT Chance Hall (unknown), vs. Alabama
*DT Danny O’Brien (dismissed)
*WR Preston Williams (left team)