Tennessee defensive tackle Danny O'Brien suspended for Oklahoma game

Tennessee defensive tackle Danny O'Brien suspended for Oklahoma game

September 9th, 2015 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee defensive lineman Danny O'Brien (95) celebrates with fans as he leaves the field following a 24-17 win over Vanderbilt in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tennessee defensive lineman Danny O'Brien (95) celebrates with...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee is dealing with the suspension of a starter for the second game of the young season.

Head coach Butch Jones announced Wednesday that defensive tackle Danny O'Brien will be suspended for Saturday's game against No. 19 Oklahoma for violating team rules and policy.

"There's been no timetable set for his return," he said.

Jones declined to say if the suspension would cost O'Brien multiple games.

"I'm not going to speculate," he said. "It's ongoing and we'll see. We're going to support Dan through this whole deal."

Wide receiver Pig Howard was suspended for the season-opening win against Bowling Green for violating team rules earlier in the offseason, though the senior will be back this week.

"It's disappointing," Jones said. "Any time you have to do that, it's like disciplining your own kids. You hate to do it, but you have to do it.

"We have standards and expectations in our football program, and everything is based on choices. There's consequences for your actions, and we're never going to short-change that. We're never going to take a backseat to that.

"You look at these and you say, 'Are they bad choices, or is it bad character?' I think it's been bad choices. We have very good character in our football program."

It's likely Owen Williams will slide into the starting lineup alongside Kendal Vickers, and freshmen Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie will see their snaps increase as well.

Tuttle played in the first half of the Bowling Green game, but McKenzie only played in the fourth quarter, though the Vols planned to increase his workload in practice this week to get him back up to speed after he missed about a week of preseason practice.

"The two youngsters need to step up," Jones said. "It's a great opportunity for them. We're going to have some youth served there, so to speak, but it's an opportunity for them.

"(McKenzie) feels the best he's ever felt. He's weighing the least he's ever weighed before (in his career), so he's able to move a little bit more. I'm excited to see him perform Saturday."

Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) intercepts an Iowa pass during the second half of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. Tennessee won 45-28.

Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) intercepts an...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

McNeil to return

Tennessee once feared safety LaDarrell McNeil would be out for an extended period of time with a neck injury, but Jones said the senior will return for next week's game against Western Carolina.

McNeil returned to practice this week in a non-contact green jersey.

Jones previously called McNeil's return a "long shot" the week before the season, but McNeil sought a second opinion from doctors in his native Texas.

"He flew to Texas to meet with some doctors that come highly recommended, that deal with the National Football League," Jones said. "He had a full examination, MRI, all that. After that, they concluded it was safe for him to play football and for him to get back on the practice field.

"Just seeing the smile on his face and the excitement of his teammates was very, very rewarding."

Arnold, Abernathy out

Safety and special teamer Max Arnold (MCL sprain) and running back/kick returner Ralph David Abernathy (ankle sprain) won't play against the Sooners.

Abernathy limped off the field after returning a kickoff in the season opener and has been on crutches and in a walking boot this week.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.


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