“You gotta love it, don’t you,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said with a smile. Jones, entering his 5th year at the helm of the Tennessee Football program, was talking about the group he had up front on the offensive line.
“Competitiveness brings out the best in individuals. That group has really done a great job at embracing the competitive spirit,” Jones continued. Butch finally has numbers on the offensive line. That situation is easily in the best shape that it’s been in since Jones arrived in Knoxville.
Now Jones has a bit of a different problem, but it’s a good one to have. He’s got to figure out the right combination up front. Jones discussed that on Friday, saying “It’s not really about who runs with the first team or who runs with the second team or who runs with the third team, it’s about reps.”
Butch said that he will evaluate players individually, then find the right combination. So in other words, don’t pay too much attention to who is playing where in camp.
“We have a number of individuals up front who have played, but for us it’s about finding the five that are readymade. As we know I don’t look at it as a starting five, I look at it as basically a starting ten. We’ll mix around some starting combinations.”
One thing to watch is the status of tackle Chance Hall. Jones said that he would be “very, very limited” to start camp. That may throw a curveball into his formula as he tries to figure out where to place Trey Smith, Brett Kendrick, Marcus Tatum, Drew Richmond and Ryan Johnson.
As we’ve said all summer long, there’s no reason for Tennessee not to be good up front this season. They are experienced and deep. This needs to be the primary strength of this team and this group should carry the offense. If that happens, Tennessee will be a player in the SEC East picture. We’ll see how they start this weekend as camp opens.