O-line better than in '98

Tennessee's 1998 national championship team is the one all subsequent squads aspire to. So, when Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders says this year's offensive line is better than the '98 group, you sit up and take notice.

Sanders doesn't just say the 2004 line is better, though. He suggests it is significantly better than the '98 front of Chad Clifton, Mercedes Hamilton, Spencer Riley, Cosey Coleman and Jarvis Reado.

''I think we're WAY better in the offensive line now than we were even in '98,'' Sanders said this week. ''I think this group is more physical than that group.''

It's also more mental, if you'll pardon the pun.

''It's amazing how defenses have evolved in the last six years,'' Sanders said. ''Six years ago you saw the same front every week -- base package -- because everybody played 4-3 (four linemen, three linebackers).

''This year we've played six games and seen four completely different schemes. Last week (vs. Ole Miss) we saw a multitude of stunts and blitzes and change-ups inside. So what they (2004 blockers) have to handle mentally is much more than what that group in '98 had to handle.

''I they're more physical but also the mental part of it is more challenging.''

Because of injuries, six players have manned the five starting spots in Tennessee's 2004 line. They are Arron Sears, Albert Toeaina, Michael Munoz, Rob Smith, Cody Douglas and Jason Respert.

Those guys may not win a national title but they've certainly won the respect of Tennessee's offensive coordinator.

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