(Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Amid a difficult start to the season for Tennessee, leading scorer Rickea Jackson will be out “indefinitely,” coach Kellie Harper said Sunday.

The senior forward didn’t play Sunday in the Vols’ loss to Virginia Tech. Instead, she appeared on the bench in street clothes.

Yet Jackson doesn’t seem to be injured, and Harper called it a “coach’s decision” to keep the player off the floor.

Jackson is Tennessee’s leading scorer so far this season, averaging 17.6 points and shooting 54.1% from the field. She is also contributing 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.

She came to Tennessee after entering the transfer portal from Mississippi State in January of last season.

The Detroit native cited the difficulties of playing for three coaches in three seasons as the reason for her departure. During her freshman year, Mississippi State was coached by Vic Schaefer, who then left for Texas and was replaced by Nikki McCray-Penson. She left the following year due to health concerns, and Doug Novak was the interim coach when Jackson put her name in the transfer portal.

Jackson arrived in Tennessee as the top-ranked transfer heading into the 2022-23 season.

With or without Jackson, the Vols are struggling. After starting the season ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, Tennessee has dropped out of the rankings entirely, falling to 4-5 with losses to Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, UCLA, Indiana and Ohio State.

Still, Harper praised Jackson earlier in the year, saying she and teammate Jordan Horston were “well-respected on the court” by their teammates.

But that came in response to a question about Tennessee’s on-court leader. The coach had to pause to come up with a response, and she did not answer the question directly.

And with or without Jackson, Tennessee’s schedule won’t be getting any easier. The Vols take on No. 2 Stanford on Dec. 18 and No. 6 UConn on Jan. 26. Then they head into SEC play, where they take on opponents including No. 11 LSU, No. 21 Arkansas and No. 1 South Carolina.