Before we could even really get to know him, Keenan Pili was out of the lineup for Tennessee. The veteran linebacker transferred in from BYU during the offseason, bridging a gap for the Volunteers as they get set to turn the room over next year. Unfortunately, those young linebackers have been forced into big-time action earlier than anyone had hoped.
That action won’t be slowing down this week, either. Josh Heupel ruled out Pili once again for this week during the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, to no one’s surprise.
“We’ll see where we’re at it here week by week,” Heupel told reporters. “He’s not ready to go in this one, but we’ll continue to see where he’s at.”
Tennessee is hoping to get Pili back before the end of the year, where they have some huge matchups — mainly Georgia in November. The Volunteers are rolling with sophomore Elijah Herring, and freshmen Arion Carter and Jeremiah Telander behind Aaron Beasley. They’ve proven they’re not afraid to rotate those true freshman in, even during key spots of a game.
“Our young guys are continuing to step up at that position, but Keenan is a special leader and still has been even while he’s been out,” Heupel said. “One of the first ones in the building. Constantly watching film. I think he’s been a real help to the young guys that are out there on the football field. He’s fighting his butt off to get back out there as soon as possible. Obviously, we feel like he’s a difference-maker.”
Tennessee certainly could have used Pili down in The Swamp against Florida, where they missed tackle after tackle. The Vols have another big test this week, tasked with keeping Le’Veon Moss and Amari Daniels under wraps.
The Vols and Aggies will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.