KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Next man up … again?
For the third straight game, No. 9 Tennessee could be without its top two linebackers, as coach Butch Jones didn’t sound too optimistic that defensive stalwarts Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder sprain) and Darrin Kirkland Jr. (ankle) would start Saturday’s showdown against eighth-ranked Texas A&M.
“We’ll know more later this week,” Jones said.
Reeves-Maybin, who led Tennessee in tackles the last two seasons, reinjured his shoulder in the win over Ohio on Sept. 17. The senior tried to give it a go against Florida, but played just a handful of snaps before leaving the game.
“We’ll try to make the best decision to present to him with his different options,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, Kirkland hasn’t played since going down with a high-ankle sprain in the Battle at Bristol. The sophomore’s status remains “wait-and-see,” per Jones.
“He did some running Thursday and Friday. Today we’re going to do some different cutting drills to see if he can match the movements that linebacker position brings about. Different burst and acceleration movements. I’ll know a little bit more on him probably later in the week.”
Jones also noted that junior tailback Jalen Hurd is fine and will be a participant in practice Monday. Hurd exited the Georgia game with a “lower extremity injury.”
Cornerback Justin Martin is no longer suspended after missing the Georgia game for violating team rules. The junior was benched during Tennessee’s win over Florida, giving way to freshman Baylen Buchanan.
Martin is available to play against the Aggies this weekend, but Jones said the cornerback must earn his way onto the travel roster.
“If he makes the trip it will be based on his performance on the field this week in practice,” Jones said.