"Those guys can be dominating," Shaw said. "If they listen to Coach Hiestand and follow his lead, those guys can dominate. I'm jealous that I'm not going to be part of the things those guys can do the next few years here."
Tauren Poole is impressed, as well.
"Zach and James have pretty much got me believing they can be All-Americans," the Vols' top tailback said. "I saw Zach dump one of the Alabama defensive tackles on his back maybe 10 yards downfield. I congratulated him and said, 'That was great to see.' He didn't have much to say. He was just smiling."
Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has done a masterful job of piecing together a serviceable line with so many novices. Even Shaw admits being somewhat amazed by the performance of the raw rookies.
"There's no way me and the guys I came in with could do something like what they're doing - playing quality minutes against quality SEC defensive linemen," Shaw said. "Coming in my freshman year, I was like starry-eyed, looking at guys and thinking, 'Man, I don't know when I'll be able to block somebody like Jerrell Powe.'
"But those guys (Vol rookies) are special, man. They have a whole different attitude about themselves, a whole different mindset. Obviously, they've got the talent but (the key) is their mindset that they can come in and compete with those guys."
Shaw believes James and Fulton, in particular, have the potential to be elite players someday.
"Ja'Wuan has a special talent," Shaw said. "Sometimes he just don't realize how good he can be. I talk to him and tell him to take a step back when he's not focused or don't understand what's going on. That was my major problem coming in - I didn't always understand certain things that was going on.
"And Zach is a really good player. He's really good. Those two guys are going to be special."
The formula for the improvement of Tennessee's young offensive front is no closely guarded secret. Once Hiestand identified his most talented prospects, he worked them and worked them and worked them.
"In the spring guys were wondering 'Man, why are we out here so late?' Everybody else was dressed and in their cars, and we were just getting off the field," Shaw recalled. "But we're kind of used to it now.
"Towards the end of spring and definitely in the summer we learned that that's the only way we were going to get better. We had a lot of young guys, a lot of guys that hadn't played a down here. That was the only way we could catch up, grow together as a unit so we could go out there and compete."
A mid-term enrollee, James participated in spring practice. The other freshman linemen - Fulton, Stone and Marques Pair - had to adapt to the rigors of Hiestand's workouts during preseason camp in August. Shaw believes they've succeeded on a grand scale.
"The first few weeks of camp those guys had big eyes and everything," the senior guard noted. "But when the season started they picked up on it and Coach Hiestand continued to preach it, so those guys definitely know how to practice now."
That lesson took a little longer for Shaw to learn, based on his recollections.
"When I was a freshman, I was like 'Oh, my God!' The tempo of practice was something you just don't get in high school - the different periods, the length and just not understanding the way you're supposed to practice," he said. "It's supposed to be game speed, and a lot of guys coming in don't understand that."
Asked to pinpoint the best thing Hiestand has done in molding this offensive line, Shaw paused thoughtfully before responding.
"He shows confidence in everybody, even when somebody might not have confidence in themselves to get something done," he said. "He's been around different programs and been in the NFL for years. He's coached All-Americans and he's coached guys that was way worse than us. He knows the ability those young guys have, and he demands (the best) out of them every day."