On Wednesday, Darrin Kirkland Jr. had surgery on a knee injury suffered during a non-contact period of practice. Today, reports are surfacing that Kirkland will miss the entire season due to his injury suffered this week.
The news was confirmed by Butch Jones today in his press conference.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we wanted,” Jones said on Friday. “He’ll be out the rest of the season.”
Jones originally told reporters that there was no timetable for Kirkland’s recovery on Wednesday immediately following surgery. But the initial report estimated that the junior linebacker would miss six weeks.
Kirkland suffered a high ankle sprain against Virginia Tech last season, causing him to miss games against Florida, Georgia, A&M and Alabama. In his freshman season, Kirkland was named to the All-SEC freshman team. He made 66 tackles, which is the fourth most by a freshman in school history.
Colton Jumper will assume the MIKE linebacker duties in Kirkland’s absence. The senior played in all 13 games a season ago, starting in seven of those appearances. In his starts against Georgia and Texas A&M in relief of Kirkland, Jumper made a combined 20 tackles. He also had an interception against the Aggies.
Jones also mentioned freshman Will Ignont and redshirt junior Dillon Bates as guys who will be asked to step up at linebacker.
While this isn’t good news for Tennessee, Jumper’s experience provides stability at the position.