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Veteran Tennessee Linebacker Keenan Pili Returning For 2024 Season

Keenan Pili
Tennessee linebacker Keenan Pili No. 11 (left) and quarterback Nico Iamaleava No. 8 (right). Photo via Keenan Pili on Instagram.

Tennessee linebacker Keenan Pili will be back with the team for the 2024 season, as confirmed by an Instagram post from Pili on Friday evening.

A report from 247 Sports’ Matt Zenitz first broke the news on Tuesday, which was later confirmed by Pili on Friday. The news has also been confirmed by Tennessee Athletics.

“Vol Nation, thank you for accepting me into the family here in Knoxville,” Pili said in the social media post. “Let’s run it back in 2024!”

Pili returning to Tennessee gives the Vols an experienced, veteran player at the linebacker position next season. The former BYU linebacker transferred to Tennessee for the 2023 season but ran into trouble after suffering a season-ending injury after only one game on the regular season schedule.

Pili was forced to sit out the remainder of the season which is ultimately why he can return to Tennessee in 2024. As a sixth-year senior who is out of standard eligibility, Pili’s approved medical redshirt waiver will allow him to play in the 2024 season.

More from RTI: Tennessee Veteran Tyler Baron Enters Transfer Portal

Pili’s 2024 season with Tennessee will be his seventh year in college football.

Originally beginning his career at BYU in 2016, Pili redshirted his first season before serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orlando, Florida from 2017-2019. The conclusion of Pili’s mission also symbolized his return to the football field in 2019.

Pili would eventually be with BYU for four more seasons from 2019 to 2022, earning a captain title in his final two years. The Las Vegas, Nevada native suffered a torn ACL in his redshirt junior season in 2021 and was forced to miss the remainder of the season after starting the first three games. Pili was able to bounce back for the 2022 season, though, and ended the year as BYU’s second-leading tackler.

After starting his BYU career in 2016 and serving a full-time mission in between, Pili transferred to Tennessee during the 2023 offseason and projected to be an impact player alongside linebacker Aaron Beasley. Pili was the starting linebacker for Tennessee’s season opener against Virginia in Nashville before suffering his season-ending injury.

Despite being sidelined for nearly the entire 2023 season, Pili was described as a “difference maker” and “special leader” by head coach Josh Heupel throughout the season.

“One of the first ones in the building,” Heupel said of Pili in October. “Constantly watching film. I think he’s been a real help to the young guys that are out there on the football field.”

Here’s a look at Pili’s career production at both BYU and Tennessee:

2016 (BYU)

  • Redshirt season

2019 (BYU)

  • 25 total tackles, two passes defended, one sack

2020 (BYU)

  • 72 total tackles, one pass defended

2021 (BYU)

  • 31 total tackles, 1.5 sacks
  • Only played in three games before suffering a season-ending ACL injury

2022 (BYU)

  • 62 total tackles, one pass defended, one sack, one forced fumble

2023 (Tennessee)

  • Four total tackles
  • Only played in one game before suffering a season-ending injury


Keenan Pili


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