Tennessee is looking to make strong progress in year two of the Jeremy Pruitt era on Rocky Top. The Vols have worked hard in the weight room and recruiting trail to add the size Pruitt wants on both sides of the ball. However, those efforts may have taken a hit this week. On Tuesday, senior defensive tackle Emmit Gooden left practice with a knee injury. Jesse Simonton of Volquest was the first to report the news out of practice. Gooden underwent additional medical testing to determine the extent of the injury, but initial reports indicate he may be out for the upcoming season.
Vols Emmit Gooden Injured
NEWS: Vols DL Emmit Gooden suffered a knee injury in practice yesterday, feared to be lost for season but team is still waiting on test results.
Would be big blow. Vols need Aubrey Solomon eligible more than ever now.
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) August 7, 2019
Expect a report with additional details from Pruitt after Wednesday’s practice. With Gooden injured, the defensive front for the Vols continues to draw concern.
Gooden is projected to be the starting defensive tackle for the Vols and a potential impact player this year. Officially listed at 6’ 3” and 290 lbs, coaches expected him to anchor the middle of the defense. He represented a heavy majority of the limited returning experience on the defensive front for the Volunteers. A 4-star JUCO prospect in the 2018 class, Gooden had 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and one sack in 2018. His tackle for loss total was good enough for third on the team. He made his first start against Vanderbilt in the season finally, but saw rotational work all season. If he does miss the 2019 season due to this injury, he will likely seek a medical redshirt to complete his senior season in 2020.
Defensive Line Impact
With Gooden injured, the eligibility of Aubrey Solomon becomes all the more important. Solomon, the former 5-star Michigan signee, has been waiting on his waiver from the NCAA since his transfer decision in December. Volunteer fans have voiced their frustration about the lack of communication regarding the pending eligibility of the talented junior tackle. Behind Solomon and Gooden is a mix of unproven talent and developmental players. Williams will be looked upon as a leader for this young position group. Solomon and Gooden were listed together in our list of breakout season contenders for the 2019 season. It seems Williams will have a baptism by fire in the SEC.
Other JUCO transfers who may see playing time in Gooden’s absence woud include Darel Middleton, a former local prospect from Oak Ridge High School, and Dawson Stephens. Greg Emerson is another name to watch. The 6’3” 309lb redshirt freshman can provide more than enough size to replace Gooden. Still, time will tell if the former four star in state prospect and ESPN top 300 recruit can replace his production.