Josh Heupel updates Jabari Small, Cedric Tillman injuries in Tennessee football vs. Akron

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Josh Heupel was hopeful but waiting for more information regarding a pair of injuries to key Tennessee football players with Florida coming to Knoxville in a week.

Wide receiver Cedric Tillman and running back Jabari Small left in the first half of UT's 63-6 win against Akron on Saturday night. Neither returned, which Heupel stated was dictated by the game.

“Ced, don’t know yet at this point but we are hopeful. Jabari, same thing," Heupel said. "We held them from that point on in that football game just because of the scoreboard and getting those guys some treatment.”

No. 16 Tennessee (3-0) hosts No. 21 Florida (2-1) at Neyland Stadium in its SEC opener on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).

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Small was injured on the second play of the game with an apparent upper-body injury. He came off the field holding his right arm. Small ran the ball on each of the first two plays, gaining 14 yards. The Memphis native has rushed 25 times for 94 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has started all three games.

Tillman left midway through the second quarter with a lower-body injury after making a reception on a high throw from Hendon Hooker. He was down on the field for a while after being tackled awkwardly, then walked off. Tillman has 17 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown through three games.

“I was just hoping he was okay," Hooker said. "Seeing him walk off on his own power was a great sign. He is a little banged up. He is a fighter and a warrior.”

Heupel is optimistic that UT will have cornerbacks Warren Burrell and Dee Williams against the Gators after neither played against the Zips. Heupel said UT did not feel it was the right choice to play Burrell or Williams against Akron. Burrell started the first two games. Williams, a junior-college transfer, has yet to make his UT debut.

Tennessee's rushing attack dominated the first half after Small departed. Jaylen Wright entered and took over, rushing for a career-high 96 yards on 23 carries. He had two touchdowns. Freshman Dylan Sampson scored two touchdowns on option plays in the red zone. He rushed for 57 yards on eight attempts with a long of 27 yards.

Heupel praised Sampson's consistency since he joined the Vols in June as a 2022 recruit.

“(He) has probably, in that position, grasped what we’re doing better than anybody I’ve been around (as a freshman)," Heupel said. "Man, dynamic with the ball in his hands ... He is a really good back.”

Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt had a career outing against Akron. The junior had five catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns, matching his total in each of the past two seasons. Hyatt has a team-best 18 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Th