Co-Written by Jake Nichols
This past weekend, the Tennessee Volunteers hosted the Oklahoma Sooners. Neyland Stadium’s checkerboarded sellout crowd broke decibel level records, critiqued coaching decisions and gasped in horror as Tennessee’s most experienced defensive specialist went down with an injury on what most would consider to be a routine punt play.
Curt Maggitt, a 5th year senior middle linebacker and “Bash Brother” with Vols’ sophomore defensive end Derek Barnett, suffered a chipped bone in his hip against the visiting Sooners. After overcoming several injuries in the past and hoping to make a triumphant return in his last season as a Vol, Maggitt is now expected to be out for several weeks. Tennessee’s most enthusiastic veteran could only be back for the last three games, which would mean mighty sufferings for what now looks to be a much less experienced Vols’ defensive front.
This week on Rocky Topics, sports writers Jake Nichols and Ben Woody debate how much Maggitt’s hip injury will affect the rest of the season for the football team.
Nichols: The impact of Maggitt’s injury is going to affect the defense in a drastic way. As much as Big Orange fans around the country want to believe the return of safety LaDarrell McNeil and the ever-threatening presence of Derek Barnett at defensive end will stabilize Tennessee on the defensive side of the football, Maggitt’s absence is sure to leave large shoes that must be filled and big plays that must be made if the Vols hope to pose a legitimate threat in the SEC East in 2015.
Woody: Jake, even though you make a good argument that it will be hard for the team to recover from Maggitt’s injury, there are multiple people capable of filling his shoes. Coach Jones’ past two recruiting classes have been phenomenal and consisted of excellent football players, like Austin Smith and Kyle Phillips. Both are very talented freshmen, Phillips being a former five-star recruit, that have shown signs of promise in practice. As for Maggitt’s leadership, Jalen Reeves-Maybin will become the heart and soul of that defense.
Nichols: Ben, even with the the young players stepping up to fill in his shoes, the defense will still struggle. Besides Maggitt, they are currently missing Danny O’Brien and Rashaan Gaulden to either injuries or suspension. Maggitt was the heart and soul of the defense and was one of the team’s leaders. The defense will struggle to replace the man who was all over the field last year and racked up 48 tackles, a team high 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
Woody: Yes, he will be missed and the team’s production will go down, but it won’t drop off completely. With the return of McNeil, the secondary will be deeper and better suited to stop the passing game. With the underclassmen listed above and other strong players, like former the Freshman All-American Barnett, the front seven will still be able to provide a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think we all will miss Maggitt for the 6-10 weeks he’s projected to be out, but the defense will step up their game in order to perform well without him.
Edited by Cody McClure