There are gaps and there are gulfs. For the Tennessee Volunteers football team, the void on the offensive and defensive lines facing the program after this upcoming season can certainly be characterized as the latter.
With all five 2013 starters and the top backup expected to be gone from the offensive line after this season, to call offensive line a "need" in this recruiting class is an understatement. It's more like a "must." That's one reason why the verbal commitment of Fort Chiswell (Va.) offensive lineman Coleman Thomas was such major news Saturday.
The other reason is Thomas is very good, very athletic and was a top priority for this new coaching staff, who targeted and offered him very soon after taking the Tennessee job. Thomas is 6-foot-6, 298 pounds and can play every position on the line. The Vols are telling him they are recruiting him to play center, though they love his versatility, and he actually could fill a massive gap at offensive tackle depending on how the rest of this class shakes out.
The fact is UT needs to take at least six offensive linemen this year, and probably three of them need to be tackles. If Thomas signs, he will join rising sophomore Mack Crowder at the position. The Vols also signed a player in this year's cycle, Cincinnati's Dylan Weisman, who can play center or guard.
But Thomas -- who visited UT for the opening spring practice Saturday, his second trip to Knoxville in the past three weeks -- will certainly fit somewhere, and he has the opportunity to play early and often. Thomas is listed as a three-star prospect on 247 Sports and Rivals and has a nice early offer sheet that included West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland, Pittsburgh and others. He was long thought a lean the Mountaineers [his father is a huge fan] until his first visit to Knoxville a couple weeks back. After that trip, he noted to reporters that Tennessee led for his services.
Saturday's trip only reaffirmed where Thomas wanted to go. New UT offensive line coach Don Mahoney is Thomas's primary recruiter, and once Thomas saw the up-tempo style and Mahoney's coaching techniques, he knew he wanted to be a Vol For Life.
After committing on Saturday, he told 247 that he was a man of his word and would stick with his pledge. Thomas is the second verbal commitment for Butch Jones and his staff for the 2014 class, joining in-state athlete Vic Wharton.