KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee opens its season in 11 days, but standout linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin still isn’t sure how his shoulder will respond when the real hitting starts against Appalachian State (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).
Maybin underwent surgery for a torn labrum this spring, so the All-SEC senior has worn a green, non-contact jersey all preseason. He’s looked and felt fine, but the senior admits, “I still don’t know.”
“You can’t simulate a game,” Reeves-Maybin said Monday.
“I haven’t hit anybody in full speed yet. It’s just something I have to put my faith in. I trust our training room and our strength staff and things like that. I’ve progressed well and haven’t had any setbacks yet. When it’s time to go full-speed I can’t hold back.”
Reeves-Maybin led Tennessee in tackles in 2014 and 2015, recording 105 tackles and 6.0 sacks last season. The green jersey has allowed the veteran to “ease” his way back into hitting, explaining, “I’m a pretty smart practice player. I was able to handle it fine.”
Still, Tennessee needs Reeves-Maybin to be healthy if the Volunteers want to get to Atlanta. He’s the heart and soul of UT’s ‘Orange Swarm,’ and although he’s not concerned about his shoulder, he is openly curious what to expect.
“I’m not really concerned about it,” Reeves-Maybin said.
“It’s just, you don’t know. I’m not going to baby it when it’s time to go.”
Asked if he’s 100 percent though, Reeves-Maybin simply responded, “I’m ready to play.”
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com