Tennessee’s defense will be without an up-and-coming freshman for the season and a seasoned veteran until at least the bowl game.
Coach Butch Jones said defensive end Kyle Phillips will undergo shoulder surgery and be out for the remainder of the season. Jones said the freshman sustained the injury during the South Carolina game last Saturday. Phillips had eight tackles and one sack this season.
“He was starting to play very, very well but we need to get that corrected so we can move forward and get him back because he’s got a chance to be a special player,” Jones said during his weekly Wednesday press conference.
A recent MRI on Curt Maggitt’s ailing hip didn’t provide an optimistic diagnosis. Jones said the senior linebacker/defensive end is a “long shot” to return during the regular season but didn’t rule out his appearance in a bowl game.
“I think that’s a long-shot to be quite frank with you; I don’t see that happening,” Jones said. “I think a bowl game would be where we would set our sights on. But you never know, it’s basically on how the body heals. I could be standing up here before you next week and saying he’s good to go or I could be sitting up here and saying it’s not gotten any better. You just don’t know. It’s based on how the body heals. But Curt is doing a great job with rehab and recovery. He’s been very dedicated to it. He’s been very positive. So it’s just really, truly a wait-and-see.”
Maggitt missed part of the 2012 season and the entire 2013 season with a knee injury. Tennessee could pursue a sixth year of eligibility if he’s out for the remainder of the season.
“There’s a lot that goes in to it,” Jones said. “First of all, it’s not a slam dunk. It’s going to be really based on what he wants to do and we would support him. But there’s so much that goes into that decision. I know that Curt is a very driven young man. He’s very goal-oriented. He’s always thinking two steps ahead, whether it’s his career in football or whether it’s his career after football…So we’ll cross that bridge as we go and we’ll support him, but I know he’s got a lot of plans and things that he wants to do in moving forward.”
Jones said sophomore offensive guard Jashon Robertson is doubtful with an ankle injury for Saturday against North Texas, and sophomore offensive lineman Brett Kendrick practiced on Monday with a knee injury. Jones said junior receiver Marquez North is “day-to-day” with a leg injury.
“Some days he feels better than others,” Jones said.
North has been a game-time decision for much of the season.