KNOXVILLE -- Senior fullback Kevin Cooper, a Baylor School graduate, has been suspended for this weekend's game at South Carolina with "an academic team rule issue," University of Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said Wednesday.
Dooley didn't specify what academic team rule Cooper broke, and the player wasn't made available to the media after Wednesday's practice.
True freshman Channing Fugate will start in Cooper's place Saturday.
Cooper, one of the rare experienced players on an inexperienced roster, has started 24 of his 39 career games. He's only scored one touchdown and has just 204 career all-purpose yards, but his run-blocking and pass-protecting abilities have been big pieces of UT's offense since his freshman season.
"The team hurts. The team suffers," Dooley said.
Dooley said he was disappointed a senior would violate an academic rule, but he said Cooper could be back in the lineup for the Nov. 6 game at Memphis.
"Every week, everybody's on the same academic accountability policy," Dooley said.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney didn't deny the potential impact of Cooper's absence but said the Vols won't change their offensive plan.
"Channing gets in the game and gets to play as a true freshman, so he ought to be excited about it," Chaney said. "One man's bad side is another opportunity for Channing, so we're excited to go out and give him the opportunity (to) get out there and play. From a strategic standpoint, there's not much change.
"When a fifth-year senior departs your offense, you feel a little bit of that. There will be pain on that, but without any question I feel comfortable Channing will step up to the plate and go compete hard. That's what we ask all our kids to do."
Junior quarterback Matt Simms practiced again Wednesday on his sprained left knee, and he and his coaches expect him to play Saturday.
"He's better," Dooley said. "I wouldn't call him 100 percent right now, but he will be by (Saturday)."
Dooley said he would only let Simms' health affect the quarterback rotation plans if Simms "isn't 100 percent on gameday."
"But we're expecting him to be fine," Dooley said.
Senior kicker Daniel Lincoln (quad pull) didn't practice Wednesday, and Dooley ruled him "out" for Saturday. Sophomore cornerback Marsalis Teague (turf toe) didn't practice and is considered highly questionable for Saturday.
"With Marsalis's injury, the only thing that can make it better is rest," Dooley said. "What can slow down the progress is work. A lot of injuries, you can work through it and it doesn't really set you back. That's one of those, ...toes are scary.
"Sometimes the smallest injuries become the most damaging."
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