Tennessee Football: Why the Vols Should Redshirt Curt Maggitt

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31:  Curt Maggitt #56 of the Tennessee Volunteers strips the ball from Mike Glennon #8 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Georgia Dome on August 31, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Curt Maggitt was in the middle of the huddle, jumping, yelling and hyping up his Tennessee teammates prior to last weekend's game at Oregon.

Unfortunately for the Vols, he was wearing street clothes.

This was not how Maggitt's junior season—or his career, for that matter—was supposed to go. This week's trip to Gainesville was supposed to be a homecoming for Maggitt, who hails from West Palm Beach, Fla., and chose UT over the Gators.

Instead, the 6'3", 240-pound vocal leader of UT's defense hasn't dressed for a game this year. He's still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last Nov. 10 against Missouri.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said on his weekly Vol Calls radio show Wednesday night that Maggitt wouldn't play again this Saturday when the Vols take on the Florida Gators. GoVolsXtra's Evan Woodbery tweeted the negative news:

At this point, Tennessee should redshirt Maggitt and get him ready for the next two seasons on the Hill.

That has little to do with what looks to be a rebuilding year for UT and everything to do with the fact that he's too talented a player to trot out there halfway ready and squander a season of eligibility.

Unless Maggitt can be the dynamic edge-rusher he was through his freshman year and 2012 season opener against North Carolina State, UT shouldn't waste him. The Vols need him to be a playmaker, not just to play.

Tennessee is getting as much right now out of senior outside linebackers Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer as it would a hobbled Maggitt.

When asked after Wednesday's practice, UT linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen didn't seem overly optimistic about his leader getting back to his old self anytime soon.

It's day-to-day still, you know. Again, only Curt can answer that. He's been talking to Coach Jones a bunch about the possibility of playing or not playing. I'm not sure. It's between him and Coach Jones, if he can be 100 percent. He probably won't be 100 percent all this year. So, again, it's all predicated on how he feels and how he can contribute to our football team.

The Vols should ask themselves if Maggitt can help them get to a bowl game at half-speed. If that were the case, he'd be playing.

Last year, an explosive Maggitt was the best player in the Georgia Dome when he chased down Mike Glennon, sacked the N.C. State quarterback and forced a fumble. That was the last glimpse UT had of the player it recruited.

During that game against the Wolfpack, Maggitt suffered a turf toe injury, which slowed him the rest of his shortened season. 

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31:  Marlon Walls #58 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates with Curt Maggitt #56 after Maggitt forced a fumble that resulted in a safety against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Georgia Dome on August 31, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgi
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Maggitt burst onto the scene two years ago, earning Third-Team Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele, according to his UT bio. He joined A.J. Johnson as the first freshmen linebackers to ever start at UT. Plagued by injuries, he slumped to 30 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks last year before tearing his ACL.

Now, Maggitt is relegated to cheerleader on the sideline. With UT having to replace essentially its entire front seven on defense next year and a lot of the depth behind it, getting back a revived Maggitt for two healthy seasons would be a program-building benefit.

It would definitely be better than the player who is currently wearing a bulky brace and hobbling around the practice field. Though he has been practicing recently, Maggitt just isn't Maggitt yet.

"I really have no comment in regards to what his status is," UT defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "That's really through our trainer, and he'll let us know when he's ready to go."

Just 10 months removed from tearing his knee ligament, that is looking more and more like it may be 2014.

All quotes were transcribed from video posted on UTSports.com, unless otherwise noted.