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In the good old days Tennessee routinely converted defensive line prospects into top-notch offensive linemen.

Don't look now, but the good old days may be returning.

Since extreme makeovers are due in both fronts, the Vols' spring practice guide lists two incoming freshmen as both offensive and offensive linemen – 6-foot-5, 362-pound Charles Mosley of Brighton and 6-foot-3, 306-pound Jashon Robertson of Nashville.

With eight D-line prospects and just three O-line prospects in the 2014 signing class, Tennessee's head coach says giving some of the former a look as blockers is both functional and historical.

"If you go back and you look at the tradition, a lot of our great offensive linemen that we've had here at Tennessee came in as defensive linemen, then made positional changes over to the offensive front," Butch Jones said during Thursday's pre-spring practice news conference.

Basically, Tennessee decided to fill its 2014 signing class with a bunch of behemoths.

"Big bodies were at a premium for us," Jones said. "Big bodies that could run, that were physical."

Tennessee must replace all four starters from its 2013 defensive line and all five starters from its 2013 offensive line, so both fronts are in shambles at the moment. Still, the first priority to be addressed this spring is filling the holes in the defensive front.

"You always start ‘em off on the defensive line, first and foremost," Jones said. "If they're a step slower, then you move them over to the offensive line."

Former Tennessee head men John Majors and Phillip Fulmer enjoyed tremendous success converting D-line signees into O-line starters. The list includes such notables as:

Charles McRae (starting left tackle in 1989 and '90, first-round NFL draft pick)

Bernard Dafney (starting left tackle in '91)

Patrick Lenoir (starting right tackle in '91)

Rodney Gordon (starting right tackle in '92)

Kevin Mays (starting left guard in '93 and '94)

Jason Layman (starting left tackle in '93, '94 and '95)

Spencer Riley (starting left guard in '96 and '97, starting center in '98)

Mercedes Hamilton (starting right guard in '97, starting left guard in '98)

Fred Weary (starting left guard in 1999 and 2001)

David Ligon (starting center in '05, starting left guard in '06)

Vladimir Richard (starting left guard in 2008)

Junior defensive tackle Owen Williams runs through a drill during a spring practice at Tennessee.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
The Vol staff basically decided to recruit heft in this signing class, then let practice performance determine which guys wind up making blocks and which ones wind up making tackles.

"We went into this recruiting class wanting big-bodied athletes, individuals that could run, that were extremely competitive and had versatility," Jones said. "We have a number of these individuals. Unfortunately, most of these individuals won't be here until June."

Still, four of the newcomers will be on the field when spring practice kicks off Friday afternoon at Haslam Field. They are high school offensive linemen Ray Raulerson (Tampa, Fla.) and Coleman Thomas (Max Meadows, Va.), JUCO offensive linemen Dontavius Blair (Garden City Community College) and JUCO defensive lineman Owen Williams (Butler Community College).

Typically, newcomers need a year in a college weight program before they're ready to compete in the rugged Southeastern Conference. Jones says this group of rookie linemen won't have that luxury.

"They're going to have to have a great June and July and an August camp because, based on where we're at in the program, a lot of these individuals will be playing," the coach said. "We have no choice. If not, you (media member) are going to be playing and I'm going to be playing, and it won't be good."

The outlook is especially severe on the offensive line, where the Vols have just 10 scholarship players. Jones prefers to have 15 O-linemen on scholarship but reiterated that, "You're not going to fix all of your deficiencies in one recruiting class. That's just the way it is."

With Tennessee barely having enough bodies to field two guys at each offensive line position, the newcomers clearly must be ready to contribute from Day One.

"They have no choice," Jones said. "That's why we've been challenging the individuals that are in the conclusion of their senior year. We're challenging them right now at home to continue to get in the weight room and have that work ethic because they are going to play."

Coleman Thomas


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