Vol players were still processing the dismissal of teammate Danny O'Brien Tuesday.
O'Brien, a redshirt senior defense tackle, was dismissed from the football program Monday for a "violation of team rules." He averaged more than two tackles per game with the Vols in 2016, and played in every game. The popular teammate also suffered an injury in Saturday's loss to Texas A&M and had to be carted off the field.
Todd Kelly Jr., a junior safety and considered himself a leader of Team 120, found out the news on social media.
"Well Danny's a great guy, first off," Kelly said. "And the years I got to spend with him were amazing. He was a great mentor for me. When you have a void you have to fix it. And even though he was a piece to our puzzle, I feel like we'll be able to fill that piece again. He's a great guy and I wish him the best in the future."
Quarterback and team captain Joshua Dobbs was remorseful that O'Brien's last game with the Vols ended in injury.
"I'm sorry to see him go out that way and we definitely wish him the best," Dobbs said. "Every interaction I've had with 'OB' has been awesome, positive, pushing this team, pushing the d-line, continuing to work hard and grind and get us where we want to be. That's really helped us for sure."
Wes Rucker from GoVols247.com shared the impact of losing a pivotal member to the defense like O'Brien:
"Well obviously the news of Danny O'Brien's departure comes as a surprise and not a good surprise. You're talking about a guy who was a senior leader on this team. He wasn't technically a captain but he was certainly one of the more popular guys around the locker room. Everybody liked Danny O'Brien. It's tough to see a guy like that end his career like that. You never want to see something like that. As far as on the field goes, it's certainly a loss. Danny O'Brien's kind of a self-made guy, he wasn't the biggest guy he wasn't the fastest guy but he was a guy who got the job done. He was a tough guy. You're losing a starter for Tennessee, you're losing a guy who's a leader in the locker room and you're losing a guy at a premium position. No team ever feels like it has too many defensive tackles and certainly Tennessee has one less now. So Tennessee has three or four guys there at that position and aside from that they're probably going to have to move some defensive ends inside. So it's not a situation I don't think Tennessee can't overcome but it's a tough situation for this team. Certainly, it's not a guy you want to lose for several reasons. That's where they are, that's the way it went, so they'll have to go play Alabama and the rest of the games this season without him."