Blocking woes

The winner of Tennessee's Sept. 2 football opener with California may be the first team to throw an effective – and legal – block. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but the game projects to be a ragged affair. Each team is fielding a revamped offensive line, so a glut of sacks, false-start penalties and holding penalties appears likely.

Big Orange fans are acutely aware of Tennessee's shortcomings in the blocking front. The Vols are without three full-time starters from 2005 – tackle Albert Toeaina, plus guards Cody Douglas and Rob Smith. Their replacements didn't exactly distinguish themselves in spring scrimmages. In fact, UT's defensive linemen basically dominated their offensive counterparts.

As preseason drills approach the Vol blocking front features one stud, senior tackle Arron Sears, and one other proven player, center/guard David Ligon. After those two, it's anyone's guess who'll start Game 1. The top contenders appear to be sophomores Ramon Foster and Anthony Parker, junior Eric Young and redshirt freshman Josh McNeil. Foster and Young have two career starts each, while Parker has one. McNeil, of course, has never even played in a varsity game thus far.

Unless three of those four guys make significant strides in August, the offensive line looks to be Tennessee's weakest position for 2006. Cal could be facing the same situation, however. The Golden Bears also must replace three starters from their 2005 line, and their losses appear to be even more severe than the Vols'.

Brett Edgerton, writing for, had this to say about California's new-look offensive line:

"The Bears lose three starters up front, and they were all doozies. If you watched the NFL draft, you heard the names of all three called: Ryan O'Callaghan, Aaron Merz and Marvin Philip. Although massive tackle Mike Tepper is back in the fold after missing 2005 and converted D-lineman Chet Teofilo looks as though he can contribute, this is still an area of concern. And with that opening trip to Knoxville, it's not as if Cal has very long to figure it out."

Tennessee doesn't have long to "figure it out," either. That could make for a less-than-artistic opener on Sept. 2.

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