The good news: It's not as bad as first feared.
The bad news: It's still bad enough to sideline him for a month or so.
The encouraging news: Sophomore Arian Foster is available to pick up the slack after recovering from ankle problems.
Speaking on his Sunday teleconference, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said LaMarcus Coker's injury was “not as bad as we were concerned it might have been.”
That positive comment was followed seconds later, however, by a remark that suggests Coker may miss Tennessee's six remaining regular-season games.
“I still think you're looking at three to six weeks – three at the earliest and six at the latest,” Fulmer said.
Because of medical privacy laws, Tennessee's head coach said he could not comment on the nature of the injury – tear, strain, etc.
After conceding that Coker underwent an MRI, Fulmer added: “He has a hurt knee. That's about all I can say.”
Coker, UT's starting tailback the past three games, carried just five times for 12 net yards before injuring his knee Saturday vs. the Tide.
The 6-0, 205-pounder from Antioch, rushed 11 times for 53 yards in the opener vs. Cal, then did not carry the ball in Games 2 and 3. He had a breakout performance against Marshall in Game 4, coming off the bench to rush eight times for 146 yards. Included was an 89-yard run.
Coker started Game 5 at Memphis and ran for 125 yards on 26 carries, then rushed 12 times for 57 yards in Game 6 at Georgia.
Foster started Games 1 and 2, rushing 17 times for 69 yards vs. Cal, then just seven times for 22 yards before spraining his ankle in Game 2 vs. Air Force. He carried twice for two yards in Game 3 vs. Florida, then sat out Games 4 and 5.
Foster returned to action for Game 6 at Georgia, carrying 15 times for a team-high 63 yards and three touchdowns. He also led all Vol rushers in the Alabama game, coming off the bench to pick up 34 net yards on 11 carries.
Coker's unavailability also will mean more carries for fellow redshirt freshman Montario Hardesty.
Hardesty carried five times for 56 yards vs. Cal and 19 times for 72 yards vs. Air Force. With Foster sidelined, Hardesty started Games 3 and 4, posting 14 yards on 17 carries in the former and 21 yards on eight rushes in the latter.
Returning to backup duty, Hardesty rushed 14 times for 43 yards against Memphis, one time for six yards against Georgia and two times for nine yards against Alabama.
Through seven games, Coker has 393 yards on 62 carries (6.3 per carry), Foster 190 yards on 52 rushes (3.6) and Hardesty 221 on 66 carries (3.3).
Former walk-on David Yancey now becomes the third tailback. He has 13 carries for 60 yards this fall (4.6 per carry) but did not get a touch the past two weeks.