Lard butt to hard butt

There's an old joke about a woman so fat that, when friends urged her to "haul ass," she had to make two trips. Tennessee's 2005 offensive linemen can relate. Averaging better than 330 pounds per man last fall, they also were the butt of some unflattering quips.

Not anymore, though. The big uglies aren't nearly as big as they were last year. Case in point: Chris Scott. After reporting as a 360-pound freshman last August, he is down to a svelt 300 pounds this August. His friends back home in Lovejoy, Ga., hardly recognize him anymore.

"They're like ‘Oh, man! For real?' They're used to seeing me with a real fat face, a big gut on me," he said recently. "Now I'm real toned up, and they're like ‘Man! You're going to have to change positions in awhile.'"

Scott's freshman girth was easily explained. He grew up as part of a family in which Sunday dinner was a virtual feast.

"Sunday dinner would probably be macaroni and cheese, cornbread, rolls, collard greens, fried chicken, meat loaf, lima beans," he recalled, stopping short of dessert.

Although Vol coaches were unhappy when he reported at 360 pounds, Scott says they never told him to lose weight or forget about playing.

"Not really," he said. "I had to get it in my own mind frame that that's what I had to do to get better and contribute to the team."

Clearly too heavy and too ponderous to contribute in 2005, Scott redshirted and dieted. He also did a lot of cardio-vascular work to improve his stamina.

"I ran out in the heat, did a lot of elliptical work – Stair Master, treadmill and Jacob's Ladder," he said.

The hard work paid dividends. Scott believes he has a much better chance to earn significant playing time at 300 pounds than he had at 360.

"I feel I have," he said. "In this system, there's a lot of movement that goes on and a lot of quickness you have to use. Me being that heavy, I wasn't able to move as quick as I can now, so it helps out a lot."

Capable of playing left and right tackle, the trimmed-down Scott should see some action behind starters Arron Sears and Eric Young this fall.

"I know there's going to be a lot of opportunities," he said. "I just need to show the coaches I'm trustworthy, so I can get the opportunity when it comes.

New offensive line coach Greg Adkins believes Scott is one of several blockers who will benefit from being smaller and faster than a year ago.

"There were certain things I felt every kid needed to improve on, and some of them needed to lose some weight," he said. "The guys we asked to get a little lighter and a little quicker pretty much all met their goals. We didn't have pads on, but from the first day in shorts I thought we looked a lot quicker."

Phillip Fulmer says there was never a conscious effort to assemble the world's heaviest offensive line. It just sort of happened.

"It never was by design. We never said, ‘Hey, we want to get big.' It just evolved to that," the head man said. "At times it worked out for us, at times it didn't.

"Going back to my time as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator (1980-92), we always liked guys that had more mobility, more athleticism and could do things on the perimeter … help us use the field.

"It wasn't that guys (last year) were grossly fat. They were just too big and not nearly as athletic as we would've like to have had."

The oversized linemen played so poorly last fall that position coach Jimmy Ray Stephens was fired at season's end. Fulmer is convinced the blockers will perform much better in 2006.

"Why do I think we'll be better?" he asked rhetorically. "I think we'll be tougher. I think we'll be more physical. I think we'll be a bit more athletic. And we'll do a better job of getting prepared to play at the level we're supposed to play at.

"This is a very intense, very serious time for those guys. There's not a whole lot of guys running around smiling at that position. They don't want to be the reason the University of Tennessee offense isn't what it's supposed to be."

And they don't want to be the butt of any more fat jokes.

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