BREAKING NEWS: Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. undergoes season-ending surgery, plans 2018 return

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. underwent season-ending knee surgery today at the James Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Florida

A source with direct knowledge of the situation said Kelly, who has not played since the Vols’ 42-7 win over Indiana State in Week 2, will seek a medical redshirt and currently plans to play for Tennessee next season.

Kelly was the Vols’ leading tackler in 2016 and tied for the team lead in interceptions. He  was projected to be a team captain and starter this season, further enhancing his resume as an NFL prospect.

A nagging injury first suffered in August of 2016, however, led to an MRI test on Sept. 14, the results of which sidelined the former Webb School of Knoxville star.

Kelly had dropped 10 pounds after the 2016 season, thinking he had been slowed by added weight, but the MRI two days before the Florida game revealed he would require reconstructive knee surgery.

Losing Kelly, whose father was an All-American with the Vols and was a first-round NFL draft pick in 1993, hurt the team on and off the field.

It was Kelly who played a key role in attracting several in-state stars to Tennessee’s 2014 signing class, including all-time sacks leader Derek Barnett, and last year’s leading receiver, Josh Malone.

Kelly’s absence may have had a direct affect on the outcome of the Florida game. Tennessee was also without senior safety Evan Berry in the Sept. 16 game, limiting the Vols to safeties Nigel Warrior and Micah Abernathy the entire game.

It was Tennessee’s third game in 13 days, and the Vols appeared to wear down, allowing 20 points in the forth quarter including a 63-yard pass on the final play of a 26-20 defeat to the Gators.

Coach Butch Jones disclosed the lack of experienced defensive backs restricted the personnel packages the secondary could play, as the extent of Kelly’s injury came as a surprise late in the week leading up to the game.

Kelly is expected to be limited in spring football drills and hopes to be 100 percent by the start of 2018 fall camp.

Tennessee lost to Georgia 41-0 on Saturday missing seven starters, six of which are believed to be out for the season.

In addition to Kelly:

• Projected starting right tackle Chance Hall had season-ending knee surgery in August, a result of a previous knee injury not healing properly

• Projected starting middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland had season-ending knee surgery in August, this after knee surgery in June

• Leading returning receiver Juaun Jennings suffered a wrist injury in the season-opening 42-41 double-overtime win against Georgia Tech

• Starting outside linebacker Cortez McDowell suffered a wrist injury against Florida that required surgery

• Starting kick returner and No. 3 safety Evan Berry has not played since the opener with a hamstring injury and swollen knee that may require surgery.

• Austin Smith, a projected stating outside linebacker in fall camp, has missed the first five games on account of injury and returned to practice last week but did not play against Georgia.

Tennessee led the nation with 52 starts missed due to injuries in 2016, and several players underwent offseason surgeries, leading to 23 players missing the Orange and White spring football game.

The post BREAKING NEWS: Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. undergoes season-ending surgery, plans 2018 return appeared first on SEC Country.

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