Coach Butch Jones said Friday junior linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. would miss the 2017 season after having knee surgery.
Kirkland suffered a non-contact injury during practice last week. Jones had said Wednesday there was no timetable for Kirkland's recovery after surgery to repair his meniscus.
"We didn’t get the news we wanted,” Jones said Friday.
Kirkland suffered a high-ankle sprain during the Vols' game against Virginia Tech in 2016, which caused him to miss five games. He also tore a pectoral muscle after joining the team in 2015, causing him to miss spring practice.
Senior linebacker Colton Jumper will assume Kirkland's duties at the middle linebacker position, with true freshman Will Ignont and sophomore Daniel Bituli as the projected backups.
The Vols kick off their season opener Monday, Sept. 4 against Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.