Reports: Tennessee starting LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. suffers knee injury

Tennessee suffered through massive injury problems last season that hit several key starters, including former linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, former cornerback Cam Sutton and defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie.

Apparently the injury bug is still biting the Vols.

Linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. suffered a knee injury in Friday's practice, according to Patrick Brown of 247Sports. While the extent of the injury has not been released by the school, but SEC Country's Mike Griffith reports that it's a torn meniscus. 

The 6-foot-1, 238-pound, former 4-star prospect from Indianapolis had 10 starts and 66 tackles as a freshman in 2015, earning freshman All-SEC honors from the conference. His sophomore campaign was marred by a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 2 against Virginia Tech that cost him the next five games of the year.

Finally healthy, Kirkland is expected to be a big piece of the Vols defensive puzzle this year for coach Butch Jones. 

"I'm really just excited for this season," Kirkland told SEC Country earlier this month. "I got a really big chip on my shoulder. I'm really just excited to be back on the field and healthy. Feeling really good in this fall camp so far."

If Kirkland can't go, it'd be a big blow to the Volunteers -- although last season's injury problems have created a wealth of experience. Colton Jumper stepped in for Kirkland last year, had eight tackles against Florida, 11 against Georgia and 10 against Texas A&M in Kirkland's stead. 

Tennessee opens its season on Labor Day night, Sept. 4, against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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