Tennessee’s success in 2017 may very well rely¬†upon the production of its defensive line. The group is full of talented individuals, some more proven than others, that have yet to realize their potential in Orange and White. Junior defensive tackle Shy Tuttle fits into that category thanks to his unfortunate luck when it comes to injuries.

The lineman suffered a broken fibula against Georgia as a freshman and last season tore several ligaments in his knee against South Carolina on Oct. 29.

Coming off his second season-ending injury in two years, Tuttle’s healthy return to the lineup could go far in determining whether the Volunteers make a legitimate run to Atlanta this season. Despite the severity of his latest injury, all signs point to Tuttle making major strides with the upcoming season approaching.

During his appearance at SEC Media Days, head coach Butch Jones gave an optimistic update on his star lineman that had fans excited about Tuttle’s potential return. Following Tennessee’s Friday practice, Jones continued to express encouraging news regarding Tuttle’s recovery.

“Shy is beginning to progress,” Jones said. “He is working individual drills. He has not done any team activities yet, but he continues to progress and we are very very encouraged by what we have seen so far.”

So when could Tuttle return to the field as a full-participant? Jones wouldn’t provide any specific timeline but did suggest the junior is ahead of schedule in his rehab.

“I would say that maybe he is a little bit ahead of schedule. But, again, he is doing the individual (drills). He’s doing some movements and you can see him getting better and better each day with his movements,” Jones continued. “That has been in the encouraging thing.”

Jones wasn’t the only one discussing Tuttle’s progress following practice, as fellow defensive lineman Kendal Vickers also provided some encouraging news after seeing his teammate’s progress.

“Shy’s been looking great,” Vickers admitted. “He looks like he’s getting back into shape, football shape, he’s been working. He can move on his knee, I’m looking forward to getting him out there.”

While his importance to the team can’t be overstated, Tennessee’s defense fell apart soon after he was lost for the season last year, his desire to return to the field may only be matched by his rehab intensity according to his coach.

“It’s really encouraging when you get him out here and he’s in full pads today and he is doing individual drills with his teammates. That’s extremely encouraging,” Jones said. “He has worked very very hard, but also you can see the excitement in him as well and his demeanor.”