KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee defensive tackle Alexis Johnson looks to make up for lost time against Alabama after missing spring drills, summer conditioning and the first six games of the season.
The Vols’ junior college transfer will play Saturday at Neyland Stadium, according to defensive line coach Steve Stripling.
“Alexis’ challenge is that when he joined the program (in August) he had actually missed spring ball and summer conditioning,” Stripling said. “So now we’re tying to make up all that time in a short span. He gets extra work every day, and so the big thing for him is experience.”
The No. 9-ranked Vols (5-1, 2-1 SEC) host the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
Two things have opened the door for Johnson’s playing time:
• Starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien was dismissed from the team on Monday for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
• A misdemeanor assault charge pending against Johnson was dismissed on Monday in Knox County General Sessions Court, according to his attorney, Greg Isaacs.
Tennessee has a banged-up football team, with center Dylan Wiesman and linebacker Darrin Kirkland both questionable to play, and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton both out.
Johnson’s addition to the defensive line could provide a lift, as starter Kendal Vickers was forced out of the Texas A&M game with an undisclosed injury before returning late in the action.
Backups Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie stepped up against the Aggies, Stripling said, and now it’s Johnson’s turn.
“That was their best game, they actually started moving better,” Stripling said. “Maybe that came with more confidence and reps on the field. For both of them, it was their best game.
“Obviously this week they will be called on and they have to step up and be a part of the equation,” he said. “We plan to (play Johnson) — he’s got to step up … it’s the next man up mentality.”