“You know unfortunately last night Emmit Gooden suffered a knee injury and won’t be with us this year.”Jeremy Pruitt, 8/7/19
Heck of an opener there from Jeremy Pruitt yesterday. I didn’t see the video, so I can’t say for sure what his demeanor was, but from a cold reading of the text, that’s some remarkable restraint addressing some remarkably bad news.
What is Pruitt thinking? I mean, with the exception of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, Emmit Gooden was probably the guy the team could least afford to lose to injury this season. As Patrick Brown said this morning, Gooden was the most proven player on the team’s most unproven unit. I’m relatively certain that every conversation I had or heard about the Vols this offseason included an unequivocal statement that the defensive line was the team’s biggest question mark. And now, the one thing we do know is that we can’t count on one of the guys we were counting on. Sigh.
If you’re counting the lost productivity, here’s how it all adds up. Defensive linemen Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle, and Alexis Johnson all started all 12 games last season, and they have all graduated. Today, you can add to that ledger that of the team’s most-productive back-up in Gooden, who started a game, played in all 12 and had 33 tackles, 7 TFLs, and a sack last season. You can probably also add any productivity from Kurott Garland to the mix, as he is making doe eyes at other schools through the transfer portal.
But here’s the thing. Pruitt does not sound distraught at all, pointing out that he still has “10 guys there right now.” Here’s what he’s talking about:
Apologies appear to be in order for Dawson Stephens and Gatkek Kueth, who apparently aren’t top-of-mind for Pruitt despite making the roster as DLs. But even without the walk-ons, that’s 12 guys. Take out Gooden and one other, and those are the 10 Pruitt’s counting on. Please, please, please let him be counting Garland as gone and Solomon as here.
At this point, I think it’s wise to trust Pruitt and to mirror his lack of panic concerning the loss of Gooden. Here’s why:
- There is still reasonable optimism that Aubrey Solomon will be granted eligibility to play this fall for the Vols. Yeah, it’s the NCAA, and yeah, that institution is as predictable as an inebriated roulette wheel, but come on. They don’t have to tap dance on a straight line while singing show tunes backward and blowing into the breathalyzer. We just need them to stay on the stool. You can do it!
- Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but I would think that the learning curve is not nearly as daunting along the defensive line as it is, say, for the offensive line. You do have to line up correctly, but the linebackers are there to assist with a well-timed smack on the butt if you happen to be wrong. After that, it’s just go get the ball until the whistle blows, right?
- These are some big bodies. Five of these guys are over 300 pounds, and Elijah Simmons is a monstrous 340. I’m pretty sure he’s harboring an illegal immigrant in each of his thighs.
Losing Gooden is most certainly not good news. But all is not yet lost. We still have the prospect of Solomon, and we have brute bulk and strength at a position for which that’s 90% of the job.
So, I’m not panicking. I would not be surprised to find that these guys do just fine this fall. Go get ’em.