O-line is OK

It's no secret that Tennessee's defensive line got the better of the offensive line throughout spring practice. That seems to have the Vols' fans more worried than the Vols' offensive coordinator, however. David Cutcliffe believes the blockers' struggles were more mental than physical.

"We saw a lot of things that can get your on your heels – a lot of movement, a lot of twists, a lot of zone blitz," he said. "There were a lot of different things that can make you lose your aggressiveness if you're not careful."

Cutcliffe didn't say so but the line had another disadvantage during spring ball. None of the top three running backs – Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, LaMarcus Coker – took part in full-speed work. All three should be healthy by August. Blocking for them this fall will be a lot easier than blocking for the No. 4, 5 and 6 tailbacks was this spring.

Another factor that hindered the O-line all spring was lack of cohesion. Minus 2005 starters Albert Toeaina, Cody Douglas and Rob Smith, Tennessee's blocking wall was a patchwork unit. Moreover, Cutcliffe was constantly switching his personnel in an effort to find the best five-man combination.

Based on these factors, Vol offensive linemen probably will be a lot better in the fall than they appeared in the spring. If not, though, there's a silver lining. The strength of UT's most recent signing class was offensive line prospects. Jacques McClendon, Ramone Johnson, Darius Myers and Cody Pope are all heralded prospects who appear capable of challenging for immediate playing time. Cutcliffe concedes as much.

"I love competition," he said with a smile, "and I think we've got some guys that add to the competition."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories