Josh Heupel provides injury update on linebacker Keenan Pili

On3 imageby:Andrew Graham10/11/23


Tennessee Football Coach Josh Heupel Opens Texas A&m Week I Tennessee Volunteers I Gbo

Tennessee will be without linebacker Keenan Pili a little while longer, head coach Josh Heupel shared. The Volunteers have been without the transfer defender since he left the season opener with an injury.

And while he was originally expected to miss a few weeks, it’s been more than a month since Pili last played. Heupel is still hopeful to get him back this year, but it won’t be this weekend.

“Um, we’ll see where were at here a little bit, week-by-week. He’s not ready to go in this one but we’ll continue to see where he’s at,” Heupel said on the SEC coaches teleconference.

Heupel commended Pili for staying engaged and serving as a leader even as he’s been held out from playing.

“But our young guys are continuing to step up at that position but Keenan, a special leader and has been even while he’s been out. One of the first ones in the building, constantly watching film, I think he’s been a real help to the young guys that are out there on the football field and he’s working his butt off to get back as soon as possible and obviously we feel like he’s a difference maker,” Heupel said.

Heupel was originally optimistic to get Pili back quickly

“We weren’t sure early in the week, the severity of the injury,” Heupel said in early September. “He will not be available this week. He’ll miss a couple weeks here.”

Pili transferred to Tennessee from BYU this offseason, offering some instant veteran leadership and production. In the season opener he logged four tackles, reportedly receiving a game ball from Heupel after the game.

The good news is the Volunteers can expect Pili back at some point, still.

“I don’t believe it is season-ending at this point,” Heupel said then. “We’ll see how he continues to heal up here in the coming days and weeks.”

Heupel is ready for a test from the Texas A&M defense on Saturday

 After a week spent idle, Heupel and Tennessee will face a tough task in the trenches in their return to the field with the high-quality defensive front of Texas A&M coming to Knoxville to compete this weekend.

Heupel spoke highly of the Aggie’s defensive line during his press conference on Monday. He thinks they’re great across the board with several qualities that make them just as great against the run as they are at getting to the quarterback.

“They’re good at stopping the run, they’re good at getting after the quarterback too,” said Heupel. “First of all, they’ve got really good skill and, when I say that, I’m talking about their big skill up front too.”

“They’re physical, they’re dynamic, they’re thick. They play strong, they’re multiple up front, they’ve created a bunch of negative yardage plays in the run game,” Heupel continued. “That has given them the ability to get after the quarterback in second and long, third and long too.”