Vols bolstered O-line

After signing three offensive linemen last Wednesday, the Tennessee Vols are sitting pretty in terms of "big uglies."

Every offensive lineman that started the team's final six games of 2007 will be back in 2008. Three of the five – center Josh McNeil, guard Jacques McClendon, tackle Chris Scott – will be back for two more years. Only guard Anthony Parker and tackle Ramon Foster will be seniors.

Top reserves Vladimir Richard (two years), Ramone Johnson (three years) and Cody Sullins (two years) also have eligibility remaining. Then there are redshirt freshmen Darris Sawtelle and William Brimfield, who have four years each left.

Based on this glut of returning talent, offensive line did not appear to be one of Tennessee's hottest recruiting needs for 2008. Still, the Vols signed three solid blockers and would've reeled in a fourth except that Antoine McClain (Anniston, Ala.) switched his allegiance from UT to Clemson on National Signing Day.

Although the last-minute loss of McClain probably stung a bit, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer is quite pleased with the trio of blocking reinforcements he managed to secure.

"We did sign three offensive linemen – Carson Anderson, Dallas Thomas and Preston Bailey," the coach said. "I think you could categorize them as young guys who certainly are future prospects here. They've got some size and toughness to them."

Anderson, a 6-3, 275-pounder from Florence, Ala., graded out at better than 90 percent as a senior. He is rated the nation's No. 52 guard by Scout.

Thomas, a 6-6, 260-pounder from Baton Rouge, was a two-time first-team all-state pick in Louisiana. He is rated the nation's No. 26 guard prospect by Scout.

Bailey, a 6-5, 320-pounder from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, is rated the nation's No. 30 offensive tackle by Scout. He was invited to play in the U.S. Army All-America Game but had to decline because of injury.

For what it's worth, each of the three was accorded a 3-star rating by Scout.

Further brightening the outlook upfront for 2008 is the return of O-line coach Greg Adkins. The loss of 2006 bell cow Arron Sears was supposed to leave Tennessee with a mediocre blocking front for '07. Adkins molded a first-rate offensive line, however, maintaining a quality corps even after star left tackle Eric Young was lost for the season due to a Game 8 quadriceps injury.


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