The latest casualty is Zach Fulton. The 6-5, 315-pound freshman started Games 7, 8 and 9 at right guard but suffered an ankle injury Saturday night vs. Memphis that clouds his status for this Saturday's homecoming game vs. Ole Miss.
"Fulton is doubtful for this game," head coach Derek Dooley announced at his Monday news conference. "It used to be that ankles were day-to-day. We put 'em in big (walking) boots now, and you don't see 'em for a while."
Fulton is the latest O-linemen to be sidetracked just as he appeared to be getting in a rhythm. Consider:
Junior Cody Pope started the first two games at center, then suffered a shoulder injury that has sidelined him ever since. He appears unlikely to play again this season.
Redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield started the first three games at left guard, then suffered a foot injury that caused him to miss four games. He saw limited backup action in Games 8 and 9 but is projected to start Game 10 vs. Ole Miss.
True freshman James Stone started Games 4, 5 and 6 at left guard in Schofield's absence, then moved full-time to center as a backup. He returned to the starting lineup for Game 9, starting in the middle of the line.
Senior Jarrod Shaw started the first six games at right guard, then moved to left guard so Stone could concentrate on learning to play center. With Fulton doubtful this weekend, however, Shaw has had to return to right guard.
Only two offensive linemen have started all nine games at the same position - sophomore Dallas Thomas at left tackle and freshman right tackle Ja'Wuan James. The rest of the blocking front has been decidedly unstable.
"It's really hurt us upfront," Dooley said. "We haven't had any continuity all year. We've had a lot of progress individually with our offensive linemen but we've played with two left tackles, three left guards, three centers and two right guards. It's hard to get continuity."
Although Tennessee piled up 509 yards of total offense in Saturday night's 50-14 defeat of Memphis, Dooley said the O-line struggled due to the ongoing problems with attrition.
"It hurt us the other night," the coach said. "When Fulton goes down we have to pop Shaw over, and he hasn't played right guard in a long time. And you got a new center (Stone) next to him.
"We were starting to settle in on the right side with Zach (at guard) and Ja'Wuan (at tackle), then everything gets thrown for a loop.
"Those guys (offensive linemen) have to work together and it's just hard (when there's no stability). It's challenging."
In other injury news:
- Senior tight end Luke Stocker is "day-to-day" due to a concussion. "It's one of those things where you've got to test him every day to see if he's recovered," Dooley said.
- Senior place-kicker Daniel Lincoln should return to action this week. He is 7 for 7 on field-goal tries this season but hasn't played since Game 4 because of a pulled quadriceps muscle. "There's a good chance he may kick this week," Dooley said. "We'll find out more on Tuesday."
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Nyshier Oliver has recovered from ACL surgery but remains too rusty to play. "Oliver is full-go but he's really not ready," Dooley said. "Even though it looks good on paper that he can help you in the secondary, I think it's unrealistic to think that he will."
- Sophomore cornerback Marsalis Teague, who missed the past two games with turf toe, is a possibility for the Ole Miss game. "Teague is day-to-day," Dooley said. "We need Teague to be back. We'll find out more tomorrow (Tuesday)."
Finally, cornerback Art Evans remains suspended while he resolves an issue unrelated to football. "He's still working on him clearing up his stuff," Dooley said. "We anticipate him clearing up his stuff but I don't know how long that's going to take."