Notes: Butch Jones Updates LaDarrell McNeil’s Status

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    LaDarrell McNeil-1-2Tennessee coach Butch Jones updated the status of injured safety LaDarrell McNeil at his Wednesday afternoon media availability.

    The senior has been out indefinitely with “neck instability” since late in fall camp and Jones said last week that it was a “long shot” that the Texas native would return in 2015.

    After getting additional input from doctors in Texas, McNeil, who returned to practice in a non-contact jersey on Tuesday, has now been cleared to return to football. He won’t play against Oklahoma this Saturday, but is expected to play against Western Carolina the following week, per Jones.

    “I’ll tell you what, I’ve been so proud of him, and I know his family is excited and he’s excited,” Jones said of McNeil on Wednesday. “So we expect to have him back next week and he has been in practice in a non-contact role, so excited about that.”

    O’Brien suspended indefinitely: Jones announced a suspension for starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien. He confirmed that O’Brien will be out for the Oklahoma game, but wouldn’t confirm exactly how long the suspension would last, saying it would be an ongoing process.

    “I’m not going to speculate,” Jones said of the length of O’Brien’s suspension. “It’s ongoing, and we’ll see. We’re going to support Dan through this whole deal, but there’s just no timetable. I don’t want to sit here and tell you it’s one game. I don’t want to sit here and tell you it’s six games. It’s going to be the ebb and flow and it could be ever-changing.”

    Redshirt sophomore Kendal Vickers will get the start against the Sooners alongside senior Owen Williams, but Jones expects freshmen Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, both of whom played somewhat of a limited role against Bowling Green in the opener, to step up in O’Brien’s absence.

    “The two youngsters need to step up with Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie,” Jones added. “It’s a great opportunity for them and that’s why you work. We’re going to have some youth served there, so to speak, but it’s an opportunity for them as well.”

    Jones also said McKenzie, who only played limited snaps in the fourth quarter against the Falcons, is getting some extra work in practice this week after a somewhat uneventful debut.

    “He has gained some extra repetitions, and doing a very good job,” Jones said of McKenzie. “He’s really dropped a lot of weight. We were talking about that yesterday after practice. He feels the best he’s ever felt. He’s weighing the least he’s ever weighed before, so he’s able to move a little bit more. I’m excited to see him perform Saturday.”

    Injury note: Jones ruled out safety Max Arnold (MCL) and running back/return man Ralph David Abernathy IV (ankle) for the OU game.