KNOXVILLE -- Curt Maggitt's chances of returning at some point this season remain fairly slim.
In that case, Tennessee's star defensive end/linebacker could have the option to return for a sixth season with the Volunteers.
Maggitt has been sidelined since the second quarter of the Oklahoma game the second week of the season back in September, and an MRI on the chipped bone in his hip didn't clear up any timetable for a potential return this season.
Tennessee has three regular season games remaining, but head coach Butch Jones on Wednesday said it's unlikely Maggitt returns for any of them.
"I think that would be a long shot, to be quite frank with you," he said at his weekly press conference. "I don't see that happening. I think a bowl game would be where we would set our sights on. But you never know. It's basically how the body heals.
"I could be standing up here before you next week and saying he's good to go, or I could be sitting up here and saying it's not gotten any better. You just don't know. Curt is doing a great job with rehab and recovery. He's been very dedicated to it. He's been very positive. It's just really and truly wait and see."
Maggitt sat out the 2013 season after tearing his ACL in the 10th game of the 2012 season, and given his injury this season occurred so early, he could have the option to apply to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility if he so chooses.
According to the NCAA, players are only eligible for a sixth year if they have missed the equivalent of two seasons "for reasons beyond the student-athlete's and the institution's control."
Whether he could get it or not, Maggitt may choose to head to the next step of his career and his life.
"I just want him to do what's best for him," linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "He's a guy that's done a lot for the program. He's done everything that's been asked of him. I just kind of want him to make the right decision for him.
"I'll support him either way he goes. I'm not on either side of the fence. I'm just wanting him to do what's right for him."
Jones indicated Maggitt hasn't made a decision either way as to what he may do regarding a sixth year.
"It's not a slam dunk," he said. "It's going to be really based on what he wants to do, and we would support him. There's so much that goes into that decision. I know that Curt is a very driven young man. He's very goal-oriented.
"He's always thinking two steps ahead, whether it's his career in football or whether it's his career after football. I've never been around a more mature, positive individual that has a plan for everything. Nothing happens by chance with Curt Maggitt.
"We'll cross that bridge as we go, and we'll support him, but I know he's got a lot of plans and things that he wants to do."
His teammates would love for him to return in 2016 and further bolster what should be a pretty good team.
But it doesn't look like there will be much in the way of peer recruiting.
"That's his decision," defensive end Derek Barnett. "He's been here for a while. At the end of the day, it's his decision. I can't make the decision for him.
"But," he added after a pause, "that would be nice."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.