Herman Lathers may be back in pads at practice, but there's still no certainty he can put them on for a game.
The Tennessee linebacker went through his second workout since last season today at Haslam Field, again wearing a green, non-contact jersey and clearly energizing his teammates during individual periods.
But the return of Lathers to live action won't happen against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday (TV: FSN, 7 p.m.). There's still no decision on whether the junior will have a chance to come back this season, with the possibility of sitting out and applying for a medical redshirt on the table for him.
"I've thought about it a lot," Lathers said in his first interview since August. "Just going to see how this week and maybe next week goes and decide from there.
"I definitely feel like I want to play. Definitely I feel like my body isn't there where I can give 100 percent on the field right now."
Lathers is starting to run out of time to reach that point and contribute for the Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC) as the regular season draws to a close. After taking on the Blue Raiders (2-5, 1-3 Sun Belt), UT has three scheduled games left to play -- which will be a factor in the final verdict for Lathers.
If healthy and ready to go, the Vols could use his play-making ability at linebacker, which blossomed during his sophomore season a year ago as he racked up 75 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss. But the Vols don't appear to be counting on that happening at this point.
"Hopeful is a good word, but I don't expect him to (play this season)," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "We'll just see. We'll take it week to week."
For more on Lathers and the Vols as they gear up for Middle Tennessee, check back on http://www.govolsxtra.com, pick up Thursday's News Sentinel or follow@Vols_Beat on Twitter.