One of Tennessee’s most experienced players will be out for approximately two weeks. But there’s still a chance he could be ready to play for the Vols’ season opener.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Friday afternoon after the Vols’ Friday practice. During his press conference with the local media, Pruitt announced that senior linebacker Daniel Bituli had to undergo a minor procedure on his knee earlier in fall camp, and he will be out the next 10-17 days. Pruitt also added that there’s a chance Bituli could be available for the Vols’ season opener against Georgia State in just eight days.
“We’ve done a little procedure on him, just kind of cleaned his knee up a little bit,” Pruitt said on Friday. “He’ll be out anywhere probably between 10 and 17 days. We’ve done it the early part of this week just to kinda alleviate some pain there.
“He possibly will be ready by next week.”
Bituli has been limited in practice over the last couple days, and now Pruitt has revealed why. The senior linebacker has dealt with some minor ailments in the past, but he hasn’t suffered any serious injury during his time at Tennessee thus far.
The 6-foot-3, 252-pound linebacker out of Nashville has been a mainstay for Tennessee’s defense the last two seasons. He appeared in all 12 games for the Vols last season and made 10 starts after appearing in all 12 games in 2017 while making eight starts. He also played in nine games as a true freshman in 2016.
Bituli has led the team in tackles for two-straight seasons, totaling 79 tackles in 2018 and 90 in 2017. As a junior last year, Bituli managed 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass defended to go along with his 79 tackles. As a sophomore in 2017, Bituli racked up 23 tackles in UT’s season opening victory against Georgia Tech, tying for the eighth-most tackles in a single game in school history. He also picked off a pass against Alabama and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.
With Bituli out for the next week-plus, the Vols will likely rely on players like Will Ignont, Shanon Reid, Henry To’oto’o, and J.J. Peterson at inside linebacker. Jeremy Banks also moved over to inside linebacker from running back this week, and Pruitt said on Friday that Banks has the potential to play a lot of snaps at that spot for the Vols.
If Bituli can’t play against Georgia State, it will mark the first time he’s missed a game since his true freshman season in 2016.
In his Tennessee career, Bituli has played in 33 games and has made 18 starts. In those 33 appearances, Bituli has totaled 178 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, an interception, and four passes defended.