With No. 1 Alabama coming to Knoxville this weekend, the depth of the Tennessee defense will certainly be tested.

Injuries have greatly thinned the starting group of the defense. To make matters worse, starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien was dismissed from the program earlier in the week.

However, if there’s a spot where Tennessee has depth, it’s along the defensive line.

The sophomore duo of Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle will likely fill in for O’Brien alongside fellow starter Kendal Vickers. JUCO transfer Alexis Johnson might also figure into the rotation.

Prior to his dismissal, O’Brien suffered an injury in the loss to Texas A&M. Both Tuttle and McKenzie were forced into action as a result — performing well in limited time. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling praised the youngsters for their play in the loss:

“I thought that was their best game. I thought they actually started moving better. Maybe that came with a little more confidence and a little more reps on the field, but I really did, I thought for both of them it was their best game. Obviously this week they’ll get called on, and they have to step up and be a big part of the defense.”

The defensive front will not only be tested by Alabama running backs Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs, but also by shifty signal-caller Jalen Hurts.

If UT can win the battle up front in the trenches, it could force Hurts into becoming strictly a thrower — something Alabama certainly doesn’t want to have happen.