KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. will not play against Texas A&M on Saturday, Vols coach Butch Jones said on Wednesday night.
Kirkland suffered a high ankle sprain in Tennessee’s 45-24 win over Virginia Tech on Sept. 10 and has missed the past three games.
Jones said Kirkland started running last week, and he practiced this week, simulating linebacker movements.
The No. 9-ranked Vols (5-0, 2-0 SEC) are riding an 11-game win streak that dates back to last year entering into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game against the No. 8-ranked Aggies (5-0, 3-0) in College Station.
Jones said earlier Wednesday that linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) and cornerback Cam Sutton (ankle) would also remain sidelined. Both players went down with their injuries on Sept. 17 in the 28-19 win over Ohio.
Reeves-Maybin attempted to return for the Florida game the next week, but he was limited to a few snaps after discovering he was unable to play effectively.
“If the season started, and you said you’re 5-0, ranked in the top 10 and you’re without three of your best players on defense with Darrin Kirkland Jr., Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton, I’d look at you kinda cross-eyed, It’s a tribute to all the players in our football program,” Jones said.
“I told our team everybody in the Southeastern Conference has marquee players, they all have star players, but the team that wins championships are the teams that have great role players. They understand their role and they embrace their role.”
Colton Jumper will continue to start in place of Kirkland Jr.
The injury status of tailback Jalen Hurd was no addressed during Jones’ “Vol Calls” Show on the Vol Network.
Hurd has been wearing a green no-contact jersey throughout fall drills and into the season, but he didn’t appear to miss any snaps until the 34-31 win over Georgia.
Jones said after the game that Hurd sustained a “lower-extremity” issue, but also, that he did play on the penultimate play of the game on the kick return team.
On Monday, Jones said Hurd was “full-go,” but by Wednesday the head coach said the Vols’ starting tailback was day-to-day with a lower-extremity issue once again.