KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee will be missing its projected starting left tackle and its top linebacker Monday when the 25th-ranked Volunteers open the season against Georgia Tech.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones announced Wednesday that offensive tackle Drew Richmond will be suspended for the Georgia Tech game due to a violation of team rules and that linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. will miss the start of the season with a knee injury.
Jones said Richmond would be available for Tennessee's Sept. 9 game with Indiana State ''if he does everything that he needs to do.'' Jones said Kirkland underwent meniscus surgery Wednesday and there's no timetable yet for the junior's potential return.
Kirkland is considered one of Tennessee's best defensive players, though injuries have limited him for the last year. He made 45 tackles last season and played only eight games due to a high ankle sprain.
''It was just one of those unusual, bizarre things that happened in practice,'' Jones said. ''Somebody just fell over. The play was over. It was non-contact. That's the game of football, unfortunately. He was very disappointed but not discouraged. I expect him to come back from this and be bigger and stronger and be better for it.''
Richmond made six starts last season and was Tennessee's first-team left tackle by the end of the year.
''Obviously, we're all disappointed,'' Jones said. ''There isn't anyone more disappointed than Drew.''
Richmond's absence means fifth-year senior Brett Kendrick and sophomore Marcus Tatum will be Tennessee's starting tackles against Georgia Tech, with Tatum making his first career start. Tennessee's projected first-team offensive line also includes senior center Jashon Robertson, freshman Trey Smith at right guard and either junior Jack Jones or sophomore Venzell Boulware at left guard.
The offensive line already was dealing with a preseason knee injury to tackle Chance Hall , who won't play at all this year after starting 13 games over the last two seasons.
Colton Jumper, a former walk-on who has made 10 career starts, fills Kirkland's spot at Mike linebacker. The other first-team linebackers are senior Cortez McDowell and sophomore Austin Smith.
Tennessee also got some encouraging injury news regarding other players.
Jones said Wednesday that wide receiver Josh Smith could be available for Monday's game. Smith's status had been in doubt because of a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. Jones also said defensive tackle Shy Tuttle will dress for the game as he continues his recovery from a knee injury that ended his 2016 season prematurely.
Tennessee's projected depth chart didn't reveal the Vols' starting quarterback. The Vols are deciding between junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano .
''I want them competing,'' Jones said. ''They may compete all the way through pregame warmups.''
Georgia Tech also hasn't announced the identity of its starting quarterback for Monday's game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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