The offensive line has been a bit of a sore spot for Tennessee fans over the past several seasons. It’s been a mix of a lack of talent along with some underachieving talent. Derek Dooley didn’t leave a lot of depth and it showed early on in Butch’s tenure. Now? You’ve got no excuses.
This is pretty easily the best group that Tennessee has had up front in some time. Add number one overall player Trey Smith into that equation and you’ve at least got the potential to do some damage in the trenches.
The group is led by senior Jashon Robertson, who may be in for a different challenge this season. Robertson has spent time in both guard roles, but worked at center this spring due to an injury to Coleman Thomas. Assuming Thomas returns, Robertson should slide back over to guard, but that’s a story to watch.
Jack Jones will man the other guard position while Chance Hall will assume his spot at right tackle.
That’s about all we know for sure. From there, things get interesting. This is where true freshman Trey Smith comes into play. Drew Richmond has been a disappointment to this point and may be forced into a reserve role. Brett Kendrick has been an admirable starter for Tennessee, but doesn’t have near the upside of Smith. Will Trey be a day one starter at left tackle? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Even if it doesn’t happen from day one, I have a hard time believing Butch Jones keeps him off the field. It may take some time to find the right combination, but for once — Tennessee has options.
Venzell Boulware and Marcus Tatum will figure into the rotation too.
As I’ve said above, there are no excuses for this group not to be effective. They have experience, talent and versatility — they just have to find the right combo. Tennessee can’t come out and lose at the line of scrimmage off the bat like they did to Appalachian State last year. That can’t happen — not in year five.
I’m counting on this group being a strength for this team. They are the second most experienced group in the country and add the best high school lineman in the country from last season. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be blowing teams off the ball and opening plenty of lanes for John Kelly and Ty Chandler.