Tailback Arian Foster believes the young offensive linemen are taking the challenge to be more physical and intense.
"They definitely have," he says. "The first day I saw a total difference in tempo. The first scrimmage we had (Tuesday night) I've never seen our offense that fast since I've been here. Everybody was moving around, and there was a lot quicker tempo. The pace was intense, and everybody was excited. There was a whole different tempo."
Minus hard-nosed Jesse Mahelona and both starting ends from 2005, Tennessee's defensive front also must prove it can compete physically in the rugged SEC. Fulmer knows Justin Harrell and Turk McBride fill the bill but he's hoping a couple of the young ends will emerge in the weeks ahead.
"We need our defensive ends to play, other than Turk McBride," the head man said. "Our best combination possibly would be with Turk inside (at tackle), if one of those other guys (ends) would come on. We've got to get that to happen or he has to stay outside."
Fulmer feels OK with his front four of tackles Harrell and Matt McGlothlin, ends McBride and Antonio Reynolds. He is not yet confident in the guys behind them. Tackles Demonte Bolden, J.T. Mapu and Dan Williams need to step it up a notch. So do ends Robert Ayers, Xavier Mitchell, Wes Brown and Walter Fisher.
"We're not where we need to be, depth-wise, at either position," he said.
Making the development of the front four especially important is the fact the Vols are breaking in three new starters at linebacker this fall. So, what does the head man think of the new ‘backers?
"Youthful, making a lot of mistakes but also doing some athletic things," Fulmer said. "They're not where Coach Chavis expects them to be."