Blair or Kerbyson at left tackle?

Tennessee must protect its quarterback against some of the most feared pass rushers in the country. Check out candidates to work the blindside.

The quarterback, as Tennessee coach Butch Jones likes to say, holds the hopes, dreams and aspirations in his hands.

Keeping the signal-caller upright is key no matter what color the jersey.

Behind Joshua Dobbs this fall will be a three-headed freshmen monster of inexperience. The Volunteers’ starting quarterback has no choice but to stay as healthy as possible if the program is going to turn the corner.

So, who will protect Dobbs’ blindside?

For much of the 2014 season that task fell on converted guard Kyler Kerbyson. Now that the Knoxville native is on the left side and out wide, he plans to stick there and said “it’s nice not having to bounce back and forth.”

“I’d prefer to be at left tackle, but we’ll see what happens,” Kerbyson said. “Just cause I’m used to it now. I’ve played with it so much. I’ve practiced it so much that I feel at home there now. I didn’t before. I really thought I was a right-sided guy. I thought I was a right guard for sure. But, I really feel at home there and it gives me more of a chance later on in life if people can see what I can do on the outside.”

Dontavius Blair signed with the Big Orange as a Scout four-star prospect and one of the most highly recruited JUCO blockers in the 2014 class. After redshirting last fall, Blair is attempting to unseat the veteran.

Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney says the Alabama native has “go to” step up.

“The strength gains that (Blair)’s made and just his overall condition,” Mahoney said. “He was more fighting to practice last year than he was the guys in practice in terms of the technique and the fundamentals and scheme and all that. He was battling his own physical condition. Now he’s better in shape and he’s stronger. His sense of urgency is great.

“Again, he’s making a mistake and he knows he’s making it. Before, a mistake would be made and he wasn’t quite sure — and he hasn’t made many but when he does or if something happened and it wasn’t quite right, then he knows it. So, that’s positive signs in the right direction.”

(Danny Parker/

At 6-feet-4, Kerbyson doesn’t have ideal height or length for left tackle. He understands that but also knows there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

“I’m not the longest guy,” Kerbyson told InsideTennessee. “A lot of the other guys like Brett (Kendrick) or (Dontavius) Blair have more length than I do, so I’ve got to do it with something else. I’ve got to do it with my footwork. I’ve got to do it with my shoulders staying square and being able to get in front of somebody and not only just punch them. So, just working on my other game aspects to make me even better.”

Should Blair pick up the pace and work his way into the lineup, it will be interesting to see where Kerbyson slides.

“It’s totally different from outside to inside,” said Kerbyson, who has picked up some skills from Miami Dolphins tackle Ja’Wuan James.

“We’ll continue to move (Kerbyson) around,” Jones said. “Again, we spoke about that at the beginning of spring and will be an ongoing theme as we continue to progress is finding the best five individuals. Kyler gives us great flexibility up front. He can play guard, he can play tackle. But again, for us, it’s finding the right mix, the best five that plays winning football together.”

Find out more about the Tennessee offensive front by clicking play on the audio files below:

Kerbyson discusses O-line

Mahoney seeks improvement

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