O-line Shuffle continues

The newest dance craze around the University of Tennessee football complex is called the "O-Line Shuffle." Due to a rash of injuries in the blocking front, Phil Fulmer has done more shuffling this fall than a Las Vegas Blackjack dealer.

First-team right guard Cody Douglas, listed as "doubtful," is not expected to play in Game 3 Saturday night at LSU. If he can't go, the Vols will be forced to use their third starting offensive line in as many games.

Actually, the O-line Shuffle began about a week into preseason drills, when injuries to Richie Gandy (knee) and David Ligon (ankle) robbed the Vols of their top two centers. As a result, Rob Smith moved from guard to center and Ramon Foster moved into the starting lineup at guard for Game 1.

Gandy returned in time to start Game 2 at center, with Smith moving back to guard and Foster moving to the bench.

Now that Douglas is slowed by knee and ankle problems, the Vols may have no choice but to shuffle the deck once more. Making the situation even more intriguing is the fact Ligon is available for the first time all season and Gandy is listed "questionable" after experiencing some soreness in his knee.

"I think Richie will be available," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "But how much (can he play)?"

The Vols still have three days to recuperate before traveling to Baton Rouge. Based on the current health of his banged-up linemen, however, Fulmer expects to field another patchwork line this weekend.

"If we played today Anthony Parker would be our starting center," the coach said. "He played well in the little bit he got to play (vs. Florida). Arron Sears would be at right guard, Rob Smith at left, Eric Young at left tackle and Albert Toeaina at right tackle."

Parker, a 6-3, 305-pound redshirt freshman, has never started a college game. He saw limited reserve action at guard and center in Games 1 and 2. Sears started at tackle in Games 1 and 2 but is no stranger to guard, having started started three games there as a sophomore in 2004. Young, a 6-4, 310-pound sophomore, has never started at the collegiate level. He saw mop-up duty in three games last fall.

All of these contingencies, of course, are based on Douglas being unable to play. That seems to be a reasonable assumption.

"Cody's probably going to be out for this ball game," Fulmer said.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories