Despite starting 35 consecutive games for the Volunteers, center Josh McNeil's recurring knee injuries are expected to keep him off the team this year, and according to head coach Lane Kiffin, may prematurely end his career.
Kiffin made the announcement to media Tuesday after it was discovered that McNeil would once again have to undergo surgery on his knees. The preseason second-team All-SEC pick and preseason Outland Trophy prospect had his knee scoped last week and doctors found his knee to be in such poor shape that according to Kiffin "...Now they're looking at a longer surgery to go back and do some more stuff - a surgery that would take a long time to even have because the things they'd have to get to have the surgery done."
"There's a good chance Josh won't be playing for us, and probably won't play football ever again, unfortunately," Kiffin said.
Specifics of the MRI were not released. However, the finality of Kiffin's comments certainly make it appear that McNeil has a long way to go before there is any chance of his playing in the NFL.
The fall from NFL graces for McNeil has been both quick and steep. McNeil had petitioned the NFL Advisory Committee after last year for an early prognosis of his grade (reportedly earning a 5th-7th round grade) and signed with Tennessee as the top-ranked center prospect in the country amid great fanfare.