Young's OK with left tackle

Tennessee's best offensive tackle has this recurring nightmare: He's watching Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson run by him over and over and over.

Unfortunately for Eric Young, that experience wasn't a dream but a reality. Anderson beat Young time after time last November in Fayetteville, helping the Razorbacks beat the Vols 31-14.

"It was mind-boggling," Young recalls. "I was shocked. I thought, ‘Oh, my God! This guy here came to play! He's really good!'"

Anderson was so good that he made Young look bad.

"Arkansas was probably the worst game I played last year," Young notes. "When I watched that film, I had nightmares about that film. I wish I'd had the mental approach to that game that I did to the Georgia game."

Whereas Arkansas was Young's worst game of 2006, Georgia was his best game. The prospect of facing the Bulldogs' celebrated defensive ends, Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses, brought out the best in Young.

"No doubt about it," the Vol tackle recalls. "Arron Sears told me what to expect. He said, ‘You better bring you're A-game this week.' We'd watch film every day and he'd emphasize it (how good Moses and Johnson were)."

Anderson, Moses and Johnson are all in the NFL now but Young's challenge in 2007 is even bigger than it was in 2006. Now that he has moved from right tackle to left tackle, he is entrusted with protecting quarterback Erik Ainge's blind side. That is a huge responsibility.

"I know the importance of protecting the quarterback's backside," Young says. "But it's not that big of a difference. I just look at it like I've got a job to do … protect the quarterback. That's my livelihood."

Still, pass protecting is less stressful at right tackle. If you miss your block the quarterback (assuming he's right-handed) can see the rush coming and react by stepping up into the pocket, scrambling or unloading in a hurry. If you miss your block as a left tackle, however, the quarterback is usually unaware that he is about to be blasted from behind.

Still, Young thinks blocking is blocking, no matter which side of the line you're on.

"I don't think it's that big of a difference," he says. "If you're out there on the edge, you've got to be a man regardless. You've got to sustain your block. You've got to keep ‘em off. That's my job. Blindside or not, I look at it like I'm a tackle in the SEC and I've got (to block) the Player of the Week."

Although he started every game at right tackle as a junior in 2006, Young insists he'll have no problem adjusting to left tackle in 2007.

"I started my career at left tackle," he notes. "I played left tackle in high school and the first two (college) games I started were at left tackle. Once I get back into the groove with my footwork and everything I'll be OK."

He'd better be. There might be another Jamaal Anderson-caliber pass rusher in the SEC this fall, just waiting to give Young a new set of nightmares.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories