A bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Vols.
The Vols spent their week recovering and it seemed to prove helpful for some injured players.
On Monday, head coach Butch Jones gave updates on the long list of injured players on the team, most notably Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Alvin Kamara.
“I'm very encouraged that Darrin Kirkland is going to play in this game,” Jones said. “He has worked hard. He was questionable for the previous week but wasn't just quite ready to go. I think with that week off and obviously the work week, we are anticipating him being ready to go.”
In regards to Kamara, Butch said “he won’t be back this week but we do anticipate him to come back in a few weeks. As of right now he does not need surgery, and we anticipate him back in the next week or two.”
Kirkland has missed the last five games due to an ankle injury suffered in the Virginia Tech game. He had 16 tackles in the two games he did play in.
For junior linebacker Colton Jumper, who has been filling in for Kirkland, having him back on the field is vital.
“It’s going to be great to have Darrin back this week,” Jumper said. “He’s a very athletic guy, very quick, and he has a lot of playmaking abilities. He really embodies what a linebacker is.”
On the other side of the ball, younger running backs will have to fill Kamara's spot on the offense.
“Carlin Fils-aime is going to have to play,” Jones said. “We are going to need him. He’s working very hard on the consistency aspect of his game and also the intensity it takes to perform at a very high level.”
Fils-aime is just a freshman and has been very limited this season with just four carries for 19 yards on the season. Fils-aime will be behind junior Jalen Hurd and sophomore John Kelly in the lineup, but with Kelly being a younger player as well, Fils-aime will have to step up if necessary.
As for the rest of the Vols injuries, Jones said that most of the injured players, including the whole offensive line, would be available to at least practice this week.
"All of those individuals will be back at practice today," Jones said. "Some will be in green jerseys (non-contact jerseys), but they have worked themselves back into practice. Offensive front wise, everyone should be back ready to go. We are going to gain a lot of these players back.
“Malik Foreman will be back and practice today. We will see how much he can do. It's a testament to them, their work ethic and their internal drive to get back on the field for us."
Jones said on Monday that the Vols have yet to play a complete game. If all these players return on Saturday, however, the Vols may be looking at their first complete game of the season.