The flip side

When Tennessee's offensive linemen learned they'd be flipping sides this season they responded by ... well, flipping out.

Now that they've had a few months to wrap their heads around the idea, however, they relish the new wrinkle being incorporated by first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

Basically, flipping means a guard or tackle will play on both the right side and left side of the formation during the course of a game. He might line up on the left when that's the strong side of the formation, then line up on the right when that's the strong side of the formation. Or he might line up on the right when one defensive tackle is in the game and on the left when another defensive tackle is in the game.

Senior guard Ramon Foster says he and the rest of Tennessee's blockers are big fans of flipping now that they've gotten a taste of it.

"I like it," Foster said. "It's a little bit of a twist with the side flipping but for the most part everybody's taking to it and looking forward to getting started."

Basically, flipping is a win/win for Vol linemen. For one thing, it will force UT opponents to be more predictable on defense. For another, it will help Tennessee's blockers develop the versatility to line up on both sides of a given formation.

"It's a plus for guys on the O-line," Foster conceded. "If you're looking forward to playing at the next level, being able to play both sides is a plus. It's an advantage for us now, too, knowing what blitzes we're going to see because we flip sides. A certain side of the field will see certain defenses all the time. That's a plus for us."

Another thing Foster likes about the new coordinator is Clawson's commitment to the ground game. That's something close the heart of all offensive linemen.

"He likes to run the ball. He's got trust in us because he knows we can get the job done," Foster said. "We're looking forward to getting that done this year – getting a whole lot more carries and yards from Montario (Hardesty) and Arian (Foster) and Lennon (Creer)."

Ramon Foster describes the Vols' 2008 blocking front as "fun, hard-working and hard-nosed." The fact the five first-teamers combined for 62 starts last fall means they are experienced, as well.

"That's a great thing," he said. "Having everybody coming back is a plus, and chemistry is always good. You can't beat experience."

The only potential pitfall for the 2008 line is depth. Except for Vladimir Richard, the reserves are an unproven lot.

"They're growing still," Foster conceded. "They've got a little work to do but I think they're going to contribute a whole lot this year. We've got at least seven guys that can play. They've got to get it up to 10, and I think we'll get to that by the end of camp."

In addition to Richard, Foster believes two more reserves already are capable of contributing.

"I would have to give it to Jerrod Shaw and Ramone Johnson," he said. "They both show significant signs this summer of being able to play in the SEC."

And what might those signs be?

"Hard work and toughness," Foster said. "Going all the way through the workouts the coaches gave us this summer, they've done a good job of getting themselves prepared for camp."

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