Richard is an extremely athletic 6-4, 297-pounder from Sunrise, Fla. McClendon is a physically imposing 6-3, 330-pounder from Chattanooga. Both are sophomores with tremendous potential. They're still learning the nuances of pass protection but they already excel as run blockers.
"Both of them bring more physicalness to it," head coach Phillip Fulmer said this week. "It's just a matter of continued progress with their technique – a little bit on pass protection for both of them."
Although they are currently backing up first-team guards Anthony Parker and Chris Scott, Richard and McClendon are seeing increased playing time on a weekly basis. Both saw considerable action last Saturday night against Arkansas State.
"They ended up playing almost half the game last time, and I hope to be able to continue that," Fulmer said. "I wish we had that (level of competition) at more positions in the front."
In a perfect world, Tennessee would have 10 capable blockers – a first-teamer and a solid backup at each of the five line positions. This is not a perfect world, however, so Fulmer is forced to set his goals considerably lower.
"We always try to play seven," he said.
With the five starters, plus Richard and McClendon, Fulmer has seven blockers he considers dependable. The problem is this: Whereas Richard and McClendon terrific depth at guard, there is virtually no depth at tackle. When Eric Young or fellow starter Ramon Foster needs a breather, Scott usually moves over from his guard spot.
"Chris Scott can play any position on the front," Fulmer noted. "I'm hopeful Ramone Johnson eventually will be able to do that."
Johnson, a 6-5, 310-pound redshirt freshman from Chicago, is gradually moving toward earning a role in Tennessee's line rotation. For now, though, the only capable backups along the blocking front are Vladimir and Jacques, a couple of guys with foreign names and an affinity for pancakes.