Anthony Parker is a preseason All-American. Ramon Foster, Josh McNeil and Chris Scott also started all 14 games last fall. Jacques McClendon started the last six. Top sub Vladimir Richard would start for just about any other school in the SEC.
"Vlad's a starter in our minds," head coach Phillip Fulmer says, "no matter how he's reflected on the depth chart."
Once you get past Parker, Foster, McNeil, Scott, McClendon and Richard, though, the experience level plummets.
"Right now we've got six or seven guys," Fulmer says.
The Vol coach prefers to enter each season with 10 capable blockers, so he can substitute an entire line on occasion. Right now he's four short of that level. This means several starters and at least a couple of reserves must be ready to play multiple positions.
"We're concerned," Fulmer says. "But we're going to put the best five on the field, regardless of the positions they play.
"We've got to create a tackle that can play inside or a guard that can play inside or a center that can play all three (positions)."
As noted earlier, Richard is only a half-step behind the five projected line starters.
"I'm very comfortable with Vlad," Fulmer notes.
The head man's comfort level drops considerably at this point. Still, he sees signs that a few of the backups may be able to help in time. The best bets to do so are 6-4, 330-pound sophomore guard Jarrod Shaw, 6-5, 315-pound tackle Ramone Johnson and 6-1, 285-pound junior center Cody Sullins.
"I think Shaw has made progress," Fulmer says. "Ramone Johnson's got a way to go but he can get there. And I'd play Cody Sullins in a heartbeat, at center or guard."
Given the lack of depth behind the super six, Sullins may have to play center AND guard.