O-line needs depth

Phil Fulmer thinks Tennessee's offensive line played a huge role in last season's 10-win record, and he's hoping the Vols can build a similarly stout unit this spring.

''The offensive line last year was the key to our success,'' Fulmer said this week. ''(Line coach) Jimmy Ray Stephens did a great job with that group of kids, overcoming injury and having to move a number of people around and we were still efficient.''

Two starters are gone from last fall's line -- center Jason Respert and tackle Michael Munoz. Still, the Vols have some awfully good building blocks for the future.

''Obviously, we'll anchor our line around (returning starters) Cody Douglas, Arron Sears and Rob Smith,'' Fulmer said. ''We'll have to see who else comes to the forefront.''

The coach went on to note that Albert Toeaina, who started seven regular-season games last fall, ''picked up where he left off.''

Smith and Douglas are missing some time this spring with minor injuries, and the coaching staff is giving Sears a rest since he's a proven commodity. As a result, younger offensive linemen are getting a lot of work in practice.

''We have a lot of big guys, athletic guys,'' Smith said. Some of the young guys are really starting to come along. Eric Young is doing great. David Ligon's doing great, too. Anthony Parker is getting a whole lot better. We don't have all the extra people (backups) we need right now but the starting five is excellent.''

Of course, everyone will know a lot more about the young blockers when defensive coordinator John Chavis starts throwing stunts and blitzes at them later this spring.

''We'll see once Chief starts doing all the movement and giving us all the blitzes,'' Smith conceded. ''That's when we'll REALLY see how we're doing.''


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