KNOXVILLE — Tennessee suffered a major blow its defense on Tuesday when lineman Emmit Gooden tore an ACL. Coach Jeremy Pruitt announced the injury during his post-practice press conference on Wednesday and said Gooden will miss the entire 2019 season.
Pruitt said Gooden will finish classes on Friday and have surgery next week.
Gooden, who transferred to the Vols last season from Independence (Kansas) Community College, finished third on the team with seven tackles for loss in 2018.
Tennessee already may have lost Kurott Garland, who put his name in the NCAA transfer portal last week.
The Vols also are still waiting to hear from the NCAA about whether Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon will be eligible.
He played in all 12 games with one start. He made 33 tackles, including one sack. He had a career-high eight tackles against East Tennessee State.
His contributions compared to others on this year’s roster are gargantuan.
No other defensive lineman averaged more than 10 snaps per game last season. Pruitt said 10 players are working with the defensive line and that “there isn’t a whole lot of difference in any of them.”
“Right now, these guys show a lot of promise during their drills,” Pruitt said. “When you get to 11-on-11, there are more things flying around. We haven’t had near the consistency that we need to have and that will come with more playing time and more practices.
“We have to continue to put these guys in those situations and put them out there. That’s why they came here, for the opportunity to play, and they’ll get it.”
Niehaus started six games and appeared in four others at right guard last season.
He started in the Vols’ victories over Auburn and Kentucky.