Blevins: Loss of Lambert is salvageable

InsideTennessee keeps you on top of all the latest Tennessee news. Scroll down to read a column from IT's Riley Blevins on how the loss of DaVonte Lambert isn't all that bad.

Davonte Lambert's last second switch to Auburn stings, but not as sharply as some think.

Take a deep breath. Relax. The Vols' 2014 class remains Scout's No. 2 overall even without the four-star defensive tackle.

As the age-old saying goes: The show must go on.

And it will.

Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton put it beautifully in a tweet moments after Lambert plucked up a Tigers cap: "Team 118 just got better!!!"

He's right.

If nothing else, the new brass in charge of Tennessee has proven it can sell a program in shambles to talent of any caliber.

Lambert's name will be forgotten – or at least close to it – as the 2015 class grows into a beast as large or larger than this current bunch.

The talent can, and will, be replaced.

That said, the sting is understandable.

Tennessee hit the recruiting trail with two clear positional needs — defensive line and offensive line.

Lambert's services clearly would have been put to use on Saturdays. But the latter position is clearly more important for the time being.

"Dontavius Blair" was the more important name to have penned across a National Letter of Intent Wednesday. Yes, both signing would have been ideal, but Blair was the must.

The 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle walks into a starting role uncontested.

I know, I know, Lambert would have too. But without Blair, the Vols look to the injury prone, lifetime backup Jacob Gilliam and the still-learning Brett Kendrick and Austin Sanders to fill the void. None of them have seen meaningful reps.

Put as gently as possible, that's ugly. Plain ugly.

Depth is too kind a word, but Tennessee has more capable and game-ready bodies along the defensive line. The loss of Lambert is salvageable.

Jordan Williams, Greg Clark, Danny O'Brien and Trevarris Saulsberry all saw starter-like reps at points during the season and handled their roles well. And all will continue to develop during the offseason.

Corey Vereen twisted and turned around tackles, pocketing sacks and showing flashes during his rookie season. Even freshman Jaylen Miller tested the waters.

Again – I know, I know.

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That's not exactly a meeting room filled with All-Americans, but one player wasn't going to change that, either. That's what you have to remember. It's just one player. As big as he may have been. After all, three players needed to play around Lambert.

JUCO standout and the ever-versatile Owen Williams inked with Tennessee Wednesday as well, let's not forget about that.

Those "veterans" mix with the six other defensive line prospects currently pledged to Tennessee. Oh, and then there's the likes of Jason Carr, Kendal Vickers and Malik Brown who will grow battle-ready after stomaching a full off-season workload.

Lambert wasn't going to be a solve all and his absence isn't season-changing.

Put in a favorite phrase of Butch Jones, "It is what it is." Other players now have an opportunity. It's the biggest cliché in sports: someone needs to step up. It's true of next year's Vols. And they have plenty of names from which to choose.


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