KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee junior defensive tackle Kendal Vickers says he’s ready to step up and be a leader with sophomore defensive tackle Shy Tuttle lost for the season.
SECCountry.com confirmed on Sunday that Tuttle would be lost for the season on account of the leg and knee injury he suffered with 4:08 left in the third quarter of the 24-21 loss at South Carolina.
It’s the second straight game the Vols have lost a defensive tackle who was making his first start, as Kahlil McKenzie suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in Tennessee’s Oct. 15 loss to Alabama.
SECCountry.com asked Vickers what other options Tennessee has left at the defensive tackle position after the past two injuries and the dismissal of fifth-year senior Danny O’Brien.
“Quay Picou and Kyle Phillips and Dimarya Mixon are going to have to step up,” said Vickers, who was knocked out of the Alabama game with an ankle injury before returning for the game at South Carolina. “I’m going to have to be a leader and lead those guys. But they’re capable of filling in and doing well.”
Vickers said he feels he can handle the added snaps the lack of depth will lead to, and he was impressed with Kyle Phillips, who despite being undersized at 6-4, 259 has moved from end to tackle to help the team.
“I can handle the burden, that’s no problem,” Vickers said. “But Kyle (Phillips) did a good job. He’s been doing what’s asked of him, what I’ve been asking of him. He comes out and works hard every day and that’s all I can ask from him. He’s shown that he can play well through technique.”
Tennessee junior college transfer Jonathan Kongbo has the size — 6-6, 284 pounds — to play defensive tackle, but he has preferred to play in a reserve role at defensive end.
Kongbo had a curious tweet on his Twitter account on Sunday that triggered some speculation as to his immediate future with the Vols.