Pruitt Expects Vol Starter to be Back for Florida Game

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    Photo via Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Tennessee has been without one of their starting linebackers for the past couple games. But according to head coach Jeremy Pruitt, that starting linebacker will return just in time for the Vols to start their SEC schedule.

    Pruitt spoke during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference today, and he was asked about the availability of redshirt junior linebacker Quart’e Sapp. The fourth-year linebacker hasn’t played on defense the past couple games for Tennessee after suffering a minor injury in Tennessee’s match-up with ETSU, but Pruitt says Sapp will be ready for an increased role when the Vols take on Florida this weekend.

    “Yeah, Quart’e, he played on special teams last week,” Pruitt stated. “It was kind of one of those deals where he basically could probably only play a certain amount of plays in the game based off the injury he had been dealing with. We elected to play him on special teams.”

    Pruitt said earlier this week that Sapp likely could’ve played on defense this past weekend, but they didn’t want to risk it. UT’s head coach also said earlier this week that Sapp didn’t play on defense during Saturday’s game against UTEP because of a bone bruise he suffered against ETSU. But the veteran linebacker looks ready to go for this weekend.

    Sapp started out this season as one of the Vols’ starting inside linebackers and totaled three tackles against West Virginia. Another veteran linebacker, Darrin Kirkland Jr., has been filling in for Sapp and thriving in his first action since 2016. Kirkland has totaled 17 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a quarterback hurry, and an interception he returned for a touchdown in Tennessee’s three games so far this season.

    Kirkland and fellow inside linebacker, Daniel Bituli, figure to get the start against Florida this weekend. But Sapp will be available more than he has been the last couple weeks.

    As a redshirt sophomore last year, Sapp had a breakout season. He played in all 12 games and started eight of them, totaling 78 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two passes defended. He finished fourth on the team in total tackles last season.

    Tennessee will need all the help they can get at linebacker in SEC play, and getting Sapp more involved this weekend against Florida will be crucial for the Vols’ success on defense.