Tennessee defense suffers a major injury ahead of next week’s Georgia Tech matchup Tyler Lecka/Getty Images
COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)

There are two match-ups in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Labor Day weekend and, while one of them is taking all of the headlines when Alabama takes on Florida State, the “other” game between Tennessee and Georgia Tech should be a lot of fun. However, the Vols reportedly suffered a big-time loss on the defensive side of the football that could come into play in a big way against the Yellow Jackets.

Austin Price and Jesse Simonton of VolQuest bring word that Butch Jones and his staff will be without linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. in Atlanta.

On Friday, middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. sustained a non-contact knee injury in practice that will sideline the junior for the opener against Georgia Tech — and possibly longer — sources told

The full-extent of Kirkland’s injury is unknown at this time, but there’s fear that the linebacker may miss significant time.

Kirkland also battled injuries a year ago, most notably in the form of a high ankle sprain. In terms of the overall impact on the Vols in 2017, it will depend greatly on just how severe Kirkland’s ailment ends up being but, for now, we know that Tennessee will be without a key contributor in what amounts to a toss-up game against Georgia Tech.

Rowland is a lifelong Atlanta sports fan that also grew up in a Michigan Wolverines household. He previously worked with FanSided, SB Nation and UPROXX sports and covers college football for FanBuzz.
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