O-line ready to shine?

No position on Tennessee's football team has taken more heat the past two years than the offensive line. Will 2004 bring more of the same or redemption?

''I think we have an unlimited amount of potential,'' guard Cody Douglas said this week. ''We have some real physical guys. But potential means nothing if you don't go out there and back it up. I'm anxious to see how we play as a unit in a game-speed situation.''

Tennessee's 2003 line boasted considerable talent and experience but was the target of harsh criticism when the running game fell flat in Games 3-13.

''I really can't explain what happened last year,'' Douglas said. ''The past two years we've had great potential but really haven't lived up to the hype. I think it's time to stop all the talking and just go out there and get it done.''

One thing that hurt the 2003 offensive line was injuries. Whenever a starter got nicked up and a reserve stepped up, the line's effectiveness slipped noticeably. Douglas doesn't see that happening this year.

''We have a tremendous amount of depth with Richie (Gandy) and Chuck (Prugh) and some guys like that,'' he said. ''Richie can play all five positions.''

With 6-6, 365-pound Albert Toeaina sidelined by a severe leg bruise, Arron Sears has assumed the starting spot at right tackle. Whether he can retain the job when Toeaina returns (possibly in time for Game 2 vs. Florida) remains to be seen. Douglas admits it's an interesting situation.

''Arron has more experience and a better knowledge of the offense but Albert may have a little better upside,'' Douglas said. ''There's no doubt in my mind that Albert will have a better feel for the offense when he gets back, but where that battle's going to end up I couldn't tell you.''

There has been a lot of controversy in recent days regarding Phil Fulmer's decision to start Cedric Houston ahead of Gerald Riggs and Corey Larkins at tailback. Douglas declined to join the debate, diplomatically noting that he's happy to block for any of the backs. He did, however, say that each tailback has his own distinctive running style.

''Corey is more of a slasher,'' he said. ''Gerald presses the hole, then makes his cuts. Cedric is kind of a straight-ahead guy. The system is the same, and you just go out there and block, but sometimes the guys will end up at different spots.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories