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Glen Elarbee details decision to work Addison Nichols at center

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

One of Tennessee’s top prospects in the class of 2022 has already been thrown into the fire and tested at an unfamiliar spot. Four-star offensive line prospect Addison Nichols was expected to compete for a spot at tackle or guard, but upon arrival in Knoxville, he’s taking reps at center.

It was a surprise to Nichols, who says the staff didn’t previously mention this particular plan to him. However, the Georgia native is taking it in stride and learning on the fly. After all, this is what spring ball is all about.

“I got here and it was like, ‘here’s a ball, here’s how you snap — that’s kind of how it went,” Nichols said with a smile. “It was kind of a shock, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m having fun with it.”

Nichols was the 142nd ranked prospect in the class of 2022, one of Josh Heupel’s first big pulls at Tennessee. The 6-5, 318 pound offensive lineman has the length to play tackle, and was rated as a guard as a prospect by 247Sports.

Tennessee returns Cooper Mays at center, while also bringing back super senior Jerome Carvin, who also worked at center last year. As a whole, the Volunteers will return four starters up front, only losing Cade Mays from last year’s group.

Offensive line coach Glen Elarbee may be trying to simply build some depth, or he may be trying to give Nichols a different perspective.

“I think we wanted him to learn the offense as fast as he can,” Elarbee said. “When you play center, it’s the hardest position initially because it’s moving so fast — you have to make every single call. The speed of the game is faster inside as well. I think to help expedite his process — I’m not sure where he’ll have to fit in a play for us, center, guard or tackle. I thought we’d start him at center and let him learn the offense. And as he gets that down, branch him out.”

Nichols is on board with that plan, even though it’s unfamiliar territory for him.

“It’s been good because it kind of gives you a whole — it’s easier to do the whole line, basically,” Nichols said. “You know where everything is, you get to make the calls, so it’s been good for me to learn that position first, it’ll help me out with the other positions if I do learn those.”

Tennessee has to find a solution at right tackle this offseason to replace Mays. Dayne Davis, Jeremiah Crawford and Gerald Mincey are the names involved there, and it will be interesting to see if Nichols ever gets involved in that battle down the road.

It sounds like the current plan is to work Nichols everywhere, perhaps readying him to become a key depth piece for this fall.