Tennessee football: Austin Pope likely out for year, Dee Beckwith out at South Carolina

The Tennessee football Volunteers are without Dee Beckwith and Austin Pope.

Two injuries were revealed on Wednesday for Tennessee football ahead of their opener at the South Carolina Gamecocks. One of them may be a season-ending injury involving a projected starter, but another involves a potential rising star.

Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday night on Vol Calls that fifth-year senior tight end Austin Pope likely won’t play in 2020. Pope revealed back in July that he had surgery for a herniated disc, but at the time, it wasn’t clear as to when or if he would be back.

Earlier that morning, in an SEC teleconference, Pruitt also confirmed that freshman Dee Beckwith would be out with an ankle injury. Beckwith was recruited as a three-star athlete, but at 6’5″ 220 pounds, he is able to line up at running back, tight end or wide receiver.

Of these two injuries, Pope’s is much more devastating. Beckwith could provide value, but UT already has a list of go-to receivers, and Ty Chandler and Eric Gray are the main running backs. Also, Beckwith isn’t out for the season.

Pope, though, was supposed to stand out for the Vols. Last year, he started alongside Dominick Wood-Anderson at tight end. At 6’4″ 235 pounds, Pope was the main run-blocker of the two, often times lining up in the fullback position.

With Wood-Anderson having already graduated, Tennessee football is low on experience at the position now. Jackson Lowe entering the transfer portal makes it worse since he was a redshirt freshman who was highly touted.

Redshirt junior Princeton Fant converted to tight end last year and was the reserve for Pope and Wood-Anderson at 6’2″ 240 pounds, so he’ll likely see action. Beyond Fant, Pruitt and new tight ends coach Joe Osovet have three options.

Jacob Warren is the most experienced of the rest of the crew. The redshirt sophomore was one of Pruitt’s earliest signees and stands at 6’6″ 248 pounds. Sean Brown, meanwhile, signed the same year Lowe did. A redshirt freshman at 6’5″ 246 pounds, he could see more action as well.

Then there is fifth-year senior Jordan Allen. Recruited as a four-star edge rusher in Pruitt’s first class, he converted to tight end this offseason after missing all of last year due to injury. At 6’4″ 241 pounds, he could also provide help there.

Simply put, Tennessee football has options, but Pope’s injury is not ideal. Jim Chaney will have to rework his plans for the run game without the veteran tight end, but given the fact that he’s been hurt since January, he should already be prepared for it.