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Tennessee Vols National Signing Day Preview: Offensive Line

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Everything you need to know about Tennessee's recruiting along the offensive line.

Jashon Robertson secretly wants snaps at fullback.
Jashon Robertson secretly wants snaps at fullback.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing the 2015 Offensive Line

Unless you're the world's biggest Marques Pair fan, you won't notice anyone missing from last year's offensive line, in terms of either games played or games started. Returning everyone from the SEC's worst offensive line is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time -- stability and consistency should lead to improvement, but this is still the same collection of players who looked unbelievably overmatched at times during the regular season. The biggest question mark here is left tackle -- if the Vols can find a reliable option to anchor the left end of the line, then every other position should fall into place. Junior college transfer Dontavius Blair has ideal size to play left tackle, and after a redshirt year spent in the weight room, he's likely to be as ready as he'll ever be. If Blair can lock down left tackle, then redshirt senior Kyler Kerbyson can move to the other end of the line at right tackle, and the starting lineup will be mostly set: Blair at left tackle, Jackson at left guard, Crowder at center, Robertson at right guard, and Kerbyson at left tackle. Unfortunately, if Blair isn't ready to play left tackle, the Vols are likely to spend the entire offseason trying to juggle pieces along the line to find a reliable starting five.

Returning Players

Name Year Height Weight Games Played Games Started Positions Played
Kyler Kerbyson RS Senior 6-4 312 32 13 LT, RT, LG
Marcus Jackson RS Senior 6-2 306 36 17 Left guard
Mack Crowder RS Senior 6-2 295 21 12 Center
Dontavius Blair RS Junior 6-8 300 - - Left tackle, right tackle
Dylan Wiesman Junior 6-3 303 23 2 Center
Brett Kendrick RS Sophomore 6-6 316 13 2 Left tackle, right tackle
Austin Sanders RS Sophomore 6-5 311 5 0 Left guard
Jashon Robertson Sophomore 6-3 304 13 13 Right guard
Coleman Thomas Sophomore 6-6 328 11 5 Left tackle, right tackle
Ray Raulerson RS Freshman 6-5 278 - - Guard
Charles Mosley RS Freshman 6-5 370 - - -

Players already on campus from the 2015 class

Name Hometown Height Weight Position 247 Position Ranking 247 Composite Stars
Jack Jones
Murfreesboro, TN 6-5 300 Tackle, guard 9 0.9404 4
Chance Hall
Roanoke, VA 6-5 315 Tackle 75 0.8505 3

Players expected to sign Wednesday

Name Hometown Height Weight Position 247 Position Ranking 247 Composite Stars
Venzell Boulware Fairburn, GA 6-4 290 Guard 39 0.8837 3
Zach Stewart Coalfield, TN 6-4 295 Guard 63 0.8649 3
Riley Lovingood Hendersonville, TN 6-1 240 Long snapper 7 0.7578 2
Don't Jinx It Memphis, TN 6-5 310 Tackle 3 0.9732 4

What to Expect

At this point, we have a pretty good idea what head coach Butch Jones and offensive line coach Don Mahoney want out of the players along the offensive line: quick feet, strength to the point of attack, and consistency. During the worst days of last season, Jones still preferred to play mentally reliable but physically limited players over the inverse, sending players who made mental mistakes to the bench immediately. Guards Marcus Jackson and Jashon Robertson are the poster children for the way Jones wants to play, and the two players who are most likely to remain entrenched as starters -- strong, but curiously graceful players who arrive at each snap with a bad attitude.

With Jackson and Robertson penciled in as the starters at left and right guard, backups Austin Sanders and Ray Raulerson will vie for playing time with incoming freshmen Venzell Boulware and Zach Stewart. Boulware, from Fairburn, Georgia, is a physically impressive recruit who played tackle in high school but is likely to move to guard at Tennessee. He took a recent official visit to Ohio State, but the Vols seem to have weathered the storm with Urban Meyer's crew, and it looks like he'll sign his letter of intent as expected. Boulware played on the same high school team as the Berry twins, and it seems likely that they have helped keep him focused on Tennessee. Stewart, meanwhile, is the kind of talented local prospect with which Phillip Fulmer built his offensive lines. Stewart committed to the Vols early on, which probably limited his rating as a prospect, but he has ideal size and strength for the position.

At center, redshirt senior Mack Crowder will face competition from backups Dylan Wiesman and Coleman Thomas, but barring massive offseason improvement, the job is likely Crowder's to lose.

At offensive tackle, Tennessee coaches are hoping that Brett Kendrick, Dontavius Blair, or one of the incoming freshman, can seize hold of the starting left tackle position. Kyler Kerbyson, last year's starter, is more suited for right tackle, and Don Mahoney would undoubtedly love to be able to play him there to solidify the right side of the line. Unfortunately, if the other options at left tackle are unreliable, Kerbyson will once again play the role of Old Faithful and do his best as a square peg in a round hole. It's fairly unusual for a true freshman to come in and start at left tackle, but is a possibility. The Vols will likely have two highly rated freshmen available at tackle: four star early enrollee Jack Jones, from Murfreesboro, and DON'T JINX THIS, a four star prospect from Memphis. Both Jones and DON'T JINX THIS have ideal size, wingspan, and footspeed to play tackle, but the transition from high school to college is most pronounced along the line of scrimmage, and one or both may need a redshirt year to develop.

In addition, Tennessee has two massive but inexperienced projects who may be able to contribute in the future: three star offensive tackle Chance Hall and former four star defensive lineman Charles Mosley. Hall is an incredibly raw prospect who played primarily along the defensive line his first two years in high school and missed his senior season due to injury. He enrolled early and is on campus rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his high school career. He may be raw, but he's physically massive -- there's a picture of him standing next to his fellow early enrollees, and he makes Jack Jones look like Pig Howard. You may remember Big Charles Mosley from his entertaining presence on twitter or his unfortunate car accident that ended his first year on campus before it began. He should be through with rehab on his broken leg by the middle of spring, and coaches have said that he'll get his first shot at playing time along the offensive line.