To say that Tennessee is banged up heading into Week 8 does a disservice to just how short-handed the Vols actually are.
On Tuesday, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Martin confirmed previous reports that he's out for the year with a shoulder injury. Reeves-Martin is one of Tennessee's best players, so it's bad enough that he'll miss the rest of the season.
But the Vols' injury woes don't end there -- not by a long shot.
Coach Butch Jones also confirmed that defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie is out for the rest of the year with ESPN reporting it to be a torn pectoral muscle. Additionally, running back Alvin Kamara, who was seeing increased playing time for the previously-injured Jalen Hurd (ankle), reportedly has a knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely.
Per SEC Country, the Vols' ever-growing injury/attrition list is as follows...
DT Kahlil McKenzie (upper body), vs. Alabama
DT Kendal Vickers (unknown), vs. Texas A&M & vs. Alabama
DT Alexis Johnson (unknown), practice
CB Cam Sutton (broken ankle), vs. Ohio
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), vs. Ohio
LB Quart'e Sapp (knee), vs. Ohio
CB Malik Foreman (unknown), unknown
S Micah Abernathy (hamstring), vs. Alabama
LG Jashon Robertson (leg), vs Texas A&M
C Dylan Wiesman (head), vs. Texas A&M
LT Brett Kendrick (ankle), vs. Alabama
RT Chance Hall (unknown), vs. Alabama
DT Danny O'Brien (dismissed)
Many of these players aren't just contributors -- they're starters and/or potentially high NFL draft picks. Some of them were team captains, too; in fact, only quarterback Joshua Dobbs remains as a starting captain.
Vols entered season with 4 permeant captains ... only QB Josh Dobbs still standing.— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) October 18, 2016
The Vols are losing talent, experience and leadership at an alarming rate because football is unkind and injuries have no prejudice. It doesn't change the fact that Tennessee has played inconsistently throughout the first half of the season, but it does add context to a two-game losing streak.
The silver lining, if there is any, is that Tennessee's toughest schedule is behind them. The Vols' upcoming games are against South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt, none of which have a winning record at the moment.
Jones has been lauded for his recruiting efforts over the last few years. When you recruit well, it builds depth. That depth is going to be severely tested over the next half of the season. The path toward the SEC East title is still clear, though Florida technically has the division lead, it's just not as smooth as it used to be.