KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Vols will be without linebacker Keenan Pili for their home opener this Saturday against Austin Peay. The BYU transfer, who earned a game ball against Virginia, will be out at least a few weeks due to an upper body injury. Now it’s time to see how much depth this Tennessee defense really has.
“You’ll see us rotate a bunch there,” said Josh Heupel. “For those guys to be honest, I haven’t seen anything a whole lot different than other than who they’ve been up until the moment of opportunity here with Keenan’s injury. I think that’s a compliment to them individually, but also Coach BJ [Brian Jean-Mary] has done a great job of developing that room.”
Sophomore Elijah Herring is Pili’s backup on Tennessee’s week two depth chart and played 24 snaps against Virginia, tallying a team-high five tackles. True freshman Arion Carter may also rotate in at middle linebacker.
“Expect whoever is in to play at a really high level,” said Heupel. “Keenan was a great leader and did a really good job. He had a great football IQ. His communication was big for us. Those guys gotta do a great job of that Saturday night.”
Pili played 30 defensive snaps against Virginia and had four tackles. Heupel said they will reevaluate Pili in a couple of weeks, but at this time, he does not believe the injury to be season-ending.
Tennessee kicks off against Austin-Peay Saturday at 5 p.m. inside Neyland Stadium.