KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With starting offensive tackles Brett Kendrick and Chance Hall going down with injuries in the first half of Tennessee’s 49-10 loss to No. 1 Alabama, the Volunteers were left with only one option.
Play a true freshman who was destined for a redshirt season.
Tennessee turned to Marcus Tatum at right tackle, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound rookie from Ormond Beach (Fla.).
Tatum earned high praise during training camp for his tenacity and eagerness to improve, but Tennessee hoped to redshirt the undersized offensive lineman, needing the seriously pack the pounds on Tatum.
Instead, the thin tackler was forced to block Alabama’s pass rushing monsters Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams — a pair of future first round NFL Draft picks.
“Marcus has worked exceptionally hard, but we had no choice but to play him,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
“We are down numbers and are depleted on the offensive line. When you look at being down Brett Kendrick, Jashon Robertson and Dylan Wiesman, the one thing you can’t replace is their experience. I thought our younger guys battled and did some good things.”
While Tatum made his collegiate debut, Tennessee was also forced to turn to redshirt freshman Venzell Boulware, who made his first-career start Saturday, and redshirt freshman tackle Drew Richmond.
Naturally, the results were disastrous. The Volunteers couldn’t block the Tide’s freaks on the defensive line, gaining just 32 rushing yards, going 3-for-16 on third down and allowing 10 tackles for loss including 3 sacks.
“On the line of scrimmage, you are playing against 22 or 23-year-old men that have been in college weight programs for two, three or four years,” Jones said.
“It’s a grown man’s league. We will continue to learn from this and move on. We will bounce back.”