Ligon's lofty goal

You always hear a ray of optimism on Tennessee's football media day. Three years ago, Rashad Baker said his goal was 20 interceptions. Two years ago, Corey Larkins said the team's goal was 3,000 rushing yards. Last year, the receivers said they would be the best in the nation.

None of those goals, of course, were close to being met. Baker had two interceptions. The receivers last year were a bust. While Larkins' projection was off, the Vols did at least produce two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time.

Rarely does a media day go by without hearing what appears to be an outlandish statement.

The best one I heard Saturday came from senior offensive lineman David Ligon.

``We want to be the best line, not in the SEC, but in the country,'' Ligon said.

Now, Ligon is a smart guy. He is a finance major from Germantown. He made the SEC All-Academic team last year.

Surely he knows the Vols were rather pathetic in the running game last season. They ranked ninth in the SEC and 80th in the nation with 128.3 yards per game. They averaged 3.5 rushing yards per attempt, although that does factor in sacks.

An offensive line that has three former players in NFL camps and a preseason All-American (Arron Sears) underachieved last year. To what degree is arguable. But it did underachieve.

It wasn't close to being the best line in the SEC. It hasn't been the best line in the SEC in years.

But Ligon wants to jump the SEC step and go right to the national rankings when establishing goals.

That's not all bad. But you wonder if it's realistic.

Greg Adkins, who replaced Jimmy Ray Stephens as offensive line coach, was told about Ligon's ambitious goal.

``I want to challenge them to be the best,'' said Adkins through a voice hoarse from jut one day of practice. ``That's why they're here at Tennessee. And that's the way I'm going to coach them. And that's what I expect from them. We'll see how close we can get to those goals.''

If the Vols come close to being the best offensive line in the country, then Tennessee should win the East Division, play for the SEC Championship and contend for a top 10 ranking.

It will mean the running game is productive, the quarterback won't have to carry the burden and the receivers should flourish.

It will mean good times are rolling again on Rocky Top.

The makeup of the line is intriguing. Sears, a senior, is at left tackle with Eric Young at right tackle. Ligon opens at left guard. That trio is as good as any in the SEC, according to coach Phillip Fulmer.

Michael Frogg, a walk-on from Kingston who was granted a scholarship Friday, is the No. 1 center, pushed by Josh McNeil. The right guard is Anthony Parker with Ramon Foster right behind.

Not one starter weighs over 318 pounds. Last season, the average was 332.

That will help the line's agility and mobility. It will help linemen block for sweeps and screen passes.


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