Tennessee is a double-digit underdog coming into the swamp, but the Vols will have an advantage on the edge with cornerback Kaiir Elam unavailable for tonight's game, according to multiple reports.
The Gators are deep at the position, but Elam is the star of the secondary and a future first-round pick. Elam's absence is related to a knee injury, according to Zach Goodall of Sports Illustrated's All Gators.
"Elam, a junior and 2021 Preseason All-American, suffered a knee injury in the second quarter against Alabama this past Saturday when he collided with Gators defensive back Trey Dean III, while breaking up a deep pass to Crimson Tide wide receiver John Metchie III. Elam has since been diagnosed with a knee sprain, sources tell AllGators."
Below is more of Goodall's report on how the Gators will replace their star cornerback.
Redshirt freshman Avery Helm has started every game at cornerback opposite of Elam this season, although true freshman Jason Marshall Jr. split snaps evenly with Helm against Alabama. It wouldn't be surprising to see Helm and Marshall start at outside cornerback this week, as such.
Another cornerback who could factor into the mix is graduate student Elijah Blades, who transferred to UF from Texas A&M in August. Blades logged seven snaps against Florida Atlantic in the season opener but has not played since. Head coach Dan Mullen said that Blades was dealing with a sore hamstring prior to the USF game in Week 2, which resulted in Blades not dressing against the Bulls.
Tennessee has stretched the field vertically in multiple games under Josh Heupel, and they will look to take advantage of Elam's absence tonight.