As much as we may appreciate these guys now, it'll be next fall when these six experienced starters will truly be missed.
Jacques McClendon, Josh McNeil, Vladimir Richard and Chris Scott are all veterans of the 2007 offensive line that allowed an NCAA-low 4 sacks in the entire season, keeping Erik Ainge safe and paving the way to an Eastern Division Championship. Their success as a unit helped turn the eyes of NFL scouts on them individually, especially McNeil, who was projected to be one of the top centers taken in the 2010 NFL Draft.
McNeil's career essentially came to an end before his senior season ever truly got started, with his knees finally betraying him in full. That didn't keep him from continuing to work out and dress with the team, getting some action in the final moments of the Georgia blowout and serving as an excellent example to those around him.
And with McNeil going down and others banged up, Cody and Cory Sullins have stepped in and played literally above their heads this season. Undersized but at times undervalued, they helped keep Jonathan Crompton safe long enough for him to find himself in this offense, and have paved the way for Montario Hardesty in what has become a truly balanced Tennessee attack. It's fitting - even if it's unfortunate for us next year - that these six linemen have taken every step of their Tennessee football journey alongside the quarterback and running back they've been asked to protect here in their final year together.
While the Sullins Boys aren't likely to show up on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board, there may be football still out there for McClendon, Richard and Scott. Either way, it leaves a gaping hole for next year, where Aaron Douglas will serve as the lone returning starter, and Jarod Shaw is the only other player with real game experience. Perhaps above all others, these guys will be missed.