KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee will be without All-SEC cornerback Cam Sutton “for an extended period of time” after the senior was injured on Ohio’s opening drive in the Volunteers’ 28-19 win Saturday.
“I feel for him and his family. This is an individual who is a role model for what a student-athlete is and what it takes to prepare week-in and week-out,” UT coach Butch Jones said, despondently.
“You give me 11 Cam Sutton’s, and we will win a lot of football games. It is very unfortunate. Football is a humbling game. As a football family, we will be there for him.”
Now, it’s “the next man up” with bitter-rival Florida looming next week.
Welcome to college football, Baylen Buchanan.
The freshman cornerback performed admirably in the first extensive playing time of his young career Saturday, replacing Sutton immediately and never leaving the field.
The former 3-star prospect from Peachtree Ridge High in metro Atlanta, and the son of former NFL defensive back Ray Buchanan, recorded 4 tackles and a pass breakup in the end zone, negating an Ohio touchdown.
“When Cam went down, it was just like, all right I have to step in. I just didn’t want to let my team down,” Buchanan said.
“After the first drive, (the game) kind of slowed down for me. Of course the transition from high school to college (is hard), I just did my assignment, did my job and everything just fell into place.”
Buchanan turned heads during training camp, earning comparisons to Sutton and becoming the first freshman to lose his black helmet stripe. He played sparingly in Tennessee’s first two games this season, but he showcased well Saturday.
“We have really challenged him with his intensity. During the last week, he has really stepped it up,” Jones said.
“He is a youngster that has had a great advantage, learning from the best-of-the-best in Cam Sutton. I think he has gained confidence as the season has progressed. You never know. You’re always one play away. He was our fourth or fifth corner, and then all of a sudden, he was on the field for three and a half quarters, helping us win a football game.”
Now, Tennessee will need Buchanan to seriously grow up fast, as a four-game gauntlet awaits — Top 25 foes Florida, at Georgia, at Texas A&M and Alabama — and Sutton’s status the rest of the season is uncertain.