Tennessee’s junior running back John Kelly, one of the SEC’s leading rushers, and freshman linebacker Will Ignont have been cited after drugs were found during a traffic stop in Knoxville.
In a statement released by the university, beleaguered coach Butch Jones said both players have been suspended and will miss Saturday’s game at Kentucky.
Jones issued a one paragraph statement:
“John Kelly and Will Ignont will be suspended for the Kentucky game as a result of the incident on Tuesday night.
Members of our football team have a responsibility to represent the University of Tennessee in a first-class manner. I met with John and Will and they understand their actions were unacceptable.”
According to Knoxville police, officers say Kelly, who is from Detroit, was driving a car on Cumberland Avenue on Tuesday around 10:46 p.m. Ignont, who is from Huntsville, Alabama, was a passenger in the car.
The two players were pulled over in a traffic stop near 11th street due to a headlight being out.
The officer making the stop said a strong smell came out of the vehicle when the window was rolled down. Kelly and Ignont were asked to get out of the car and both consented to having the car searched.
A clear plastic bag with what looked like marijuana was found in the center console. Police said there were 4.6 grams in the bag, and officers also found a glass pipe.
Neither player claimed ownership of the bag and pipe.
The players were cited and allowed to leave the scene, but must turn themselves in for booking at the Knox County Sheriff's Office by Nov. 7 at 7:30 a.m.
Kelly was cited for possession of a schedule 6 drug, which is a misdemeanor, not having a headlight and no proof of insurance.
Ignont, who has played in four games and has four tackles with one for minus-3 yards, was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia, also a misdemeanor.
News of the incident quickly hit Twitter.
Without Kelly in the backfied, Tennessee’s sputtering offense suffers a severe blow. It’s an offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown in 14 straight quarters. The unit’s last TD came in the second quarter against UMass on Sept. 23.
In their last three games since UMass and against SEC foes Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, the Vols have been outscored 101-16 and outgained in total offense 1,305 to 503, or an average of 435 to 167.6.
Tennessee managed just 64 yards rushing and seven first downs in a 45-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama last weekend, sending the Vols to their fourth straight loss in conference play.
The Vols also started the 2014 season 0-4. If Tennessee were to lose at Kentucky (game time is 7:30 p.m. the SEC Network will televise the action), it would be their first 0-5 start since 2012, Derek Dooley’s final season before being fired.
That year Tennessee lost its first seven league games before beating Kentucky 37-17 in its conference finale. The Vols have lost to the Wildcats only once in 32 years, that coming in 2011 at Lexington.
In seven games, Kelly ranks fifth in the SEC with 615 yards on 125 carries, an average of 87.86 yards per game. He has six rushing touchdowns.
Freshman Ty Chandler, of Nashville, is the team’s second-leading rusher with 118 yards on 27 attempts with no touchdowns.
The Vols rank dead last in a 14-team conference in total offense, averages 289.71 yards of offense per game. By comparison, Alabama, rated No. 1 in the league, gets 499.75 yards per game.
When it comes to rushing, Tennessee averages 124.57 yards and that ranks 11th in the SEC, ahead of only Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)