Tennessee football addresses Jaylen McCollough status for Alabama game after arrest

Adam Sparks
Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel did not say whether starting safety Jaylen McCollough will play against Alabama after his arrest on a charge of aggravated felony assault the day before.

"We learned of it really late (Sunday)," Heupel said Monday. "As we gather more information, I’ll have more for you.

"As they (Tennessee administrators) gather information, we'll have a conversation based on the facts of it. And then we'll go from there."

No. 8 Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) hosts No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) in the most anticipated game of the college football season.

McCollough, 21, is a four-year starter for the Vols. This season he is tied for fourth on the team with 23 tackles, including seven tackles in Tennessee's 40-13 win over LSU last week.

If McCollough does not play, it would exacerbate Tennessee's problems in the defensive secondary. The Vols are ranked No. 128 among 131 FBS teams in pass defense, and they've already lost starting cornerback Warren Burrell to a season-ending injury.

"We have a lot of great leadership within our (defensive back) room," cornerback Christian Charles said. "No matter who has to step up to the plate and no matter the situation, I feel like we're all going to do a great job in preparing whoever it is to take on that role, no matter what (the situation) is."

Tennessee defensive back Jaylen McCollough (22) reacts after a play at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

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McCollough leads the team with 353 snaps played on defense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Options for his replacement, if needed, could include Georgia Tech transfer Wesley Walker, Ohio State transfer Andre Turrentine, junior Doneiko Slaughter and freshman Jourdan Thomas. Walker has the most experience, but he's mostly played nickel back.

What happened that led to McCollough's arrest

Around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, police responded to a call at an apartment at 2030 Grand Ave, according to a Knox County Sherriff's Office arrest warrant obtained by Knox News. A man with a bloody, swollen mouth and missing teeth said he had been drinking with friends that live in the complex when he went to get items from a vehicle.

The man said when he returned, he accidentally went to the wrong building. He knocked on the door but no one answered. So he opened the unlocked door and entered the apartment.

When he realized he had entered the wrong apartment, he told police he apologized and left. He said a man pursued him and became aggressive. He apologized again but also told the man he "didn't have to be a (expletive) about it." The pursuing man then punched him in the face, and he fell backward down the stairs and lost consciousness.

Police found blood on the stairs leading to the top floor of the building, where the apartment was located. They also spoke to a woman who said she was McCollough’s girlfriend. She called McCollough back to the scene, and he arrived with a bloody bandage on his right hand.

McCollough did not answer any questions, the report said, and he was taken into custody without incident.

McCollough is the third Tennessee player to be arrested in the past two months.

On Aug. 21, linebacker William Mohan, a Michigan transfer, was arrested on a charge of felony aggravated domestic assault. On Sept. 11, offensive lineman Savion Herring, a junior college transfer, was arrested on a charge of domestic assault. Both players were dismissed from the Tennessee football team.

Reach Adam Sparks at and on Twitter @AdamSparks.