Pruitt Says Todd Kelly Jr. “Not Ready to Play This Week”

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    Photo via Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Todd Kelly Jr.’s long road back to football will at least last another week according to his head coach.

    Jeremy Pruitt spoke to the media during the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday, and according to quotes from 247Sports, Pruitt said that the fifth-year senior won’t be on the field this Saturday when the Vols take on UTEP.

    “I don’t think Todd’s ready to play this week,” Pruitt said during the teleconference. “He’s worked really hard to overcome the injury he sustained last year. And with that, structurally, his knee’s fine. But when you stay off of, really, from running and competing and practicing for as long as Todd has, it takes awhile for his body, the muscles and everything, to get back.”

    Kelly missed almost all of last season with a knee injury. He played in two games to start the year for the Vols and totaled seven tackles, but that was all he could manage in his fourth year with Tennessee. He was granted a fifth year of eligibility after the season, but he’s yet to play this season.

    According to Pruitt, that’s been largely because Kelly’s rehab has taken a while and because he’s suffered a few setbacks along the way.

    “He’s had a couple of setbacks with a little bit of some pulls and things like that,” Pruitt added later.

    Though his injury is still plaguing him, Pruitt doesn’t think Kelly will be sidelined for much longer. In fact, the Vols’ head coach believes Kelly’s determination and effort will help him back into the secondary “sooner than later.”

    “Todd’s working really hard,” Pruitt stated. “He’s had a positive attitude the entire time, so it would not surprise me for him to be back sooner than later.”

    Senior Micah Abernathy and junior Nigel Warrior have been the primary safeties for the Vols this season, but some younger players have seen considerable playing time through two weeks as well. Sophomore Theo Jackson and true freshman Trevon Flowers have played a lot to start this season for Tennessee.

    Warrior is second on the team in total tackles with 12 while Abernathy is fourth with nine. Flowers has six tackles and a pass breakup while Jackson has three tackles, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble.

    Kelly started three games as a freshman in 2014, two as a sophomore in 2015, and 11 games as a junior in 2016. All in all, the fifth-year safety has played in 40 games as a Vol and has totaled 158 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, eight interceptions, 14 passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.