The question mark that is Tennessee's defensive line heading into the 2019 season just became more difficult to answer. Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt confirmed Wednesday that defensive lineman Emmitt Gooden has a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2019 season.
It's a crucial blow to a unit that was already a bit thin on both depth and experience.
Tennessee's defensive line was already entering the season without a single returning starter, and Gooden was expected to be the most ready-made replacement. He played in 12 games for the Vols last season, compiling 33 tackles, including 7 for a loss and a sack. Gooden, who joined Tennessee last year as a transfer from Independence Community College, and was featured on the third season of Netflix's "Last Chance U," was to be the lone senior on the Vols defensive line this season.
The silver lining for Gooden is that he can redshirt the 2019 season and return for his final season in 2020, but that doesn't do much to help Tennessee's situation right now. It's hard enough to win in the SEC, and it becomes far more challenging to do so without a proven defensive line.
So now the Vols must cross their fingers and hope the NCAA approves the transfer waiver of Aubrey Solomon. Solomon transferred to Tennessee from Michigan, but the former five-star recruit has yet to hear from the NCAA on his appeal. It's unknown if he'll be ruled eligible to play this season, or forced to sit out a year.
If Solomon doesn't receive clearance to play, it will leave junior Matthew Butler as the most experienced player on Tennessee's defensive line. He's played in 17 games during his first two seasons and has 17 tackles.