Meteoric rise

Six months ago he was a fourth-string tight end. Saturday he could be the starting right tackle in Tennessee's season opener vs. Western Kentucky.

Clearly, Aaron Douglas' career as a Vol football player is on the fast track.

Though rated a four-star tight end recruit as a senior at Maryville High School in 2007, Douglas was listed as a 6-6, 260-pound offensive line/tight end prospect when he signed with Tennessee in February of 2008. Vol coaches apparently envisioned him moving to tackle even before they got him enrolled. If so, Lane Kiffin credits the previous staff with some excellent scouting.

"They did a great job of evaluating him and recruiting him," the Vols' first-year head man said this week. "I don't know if they had pictured him being a tackle, but if they did they were right on."

After redshirting in 2008 while recovering from shoulder surgery, Douglas moved from tight end to right tackle last March. Now packing 288 pounds on his 6-6 frame, he is big enough to handle the rigors of run blocking but agile enough to handle speed-rushing defensive ends in pass protection.

"That's exactly what you want to do; find a bigger athletic tight end to move in," Kiffin said. "That's what Tony Boselli was when he went to USC."

Boselli made such a smooth transition from tight end to offensive tackle at Southern Cal in the early 1990s that he wound up being the second player picked in the '95 National Football League Draft.

"It's so much easier for a guy that's been athletic and then grows into it," Kiffin said, noting that Douglas "has great potential. He's what you want."

Aaron is following a path previously traveled by his father. David Douglas came to Tennessee as a 210-pounder, bulked up to 290 and became such a quality offensive tackle in the mid-1980s that he went on to play five years in the NFL.

Early indications suggest Aaron may become an even better player than his dad was.

"He's had a great camp," Kiffin said. "He's a great run player. He's got a ways to go as a pass player but I'm really excited about his development.

"Keep in mind that he just moved over there last spring. That's not an easy thing to do. We're really pleased with him. He's going to play for sure."

Young Douglas has had such a strong preseason camp that he is bracketed first-team at right tackle with junior Jarrod Shaw as Game 1 approaches.

"We haven't figured out who's going to start yet," Kiffin said. "We're still evaluating both of them. They're different players but they're very close right now in the way they're playing."

Whether he starts Game 1 or not, Aaron Douglas is going to be a major contributor for the Vols over the next four years.

"I think he's going to be a fantastic player for us at some point," Kiffin said. "That could be Saturday or it could be a year from now."

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