Douglas' dandy debut

Making his first career start last Saturday night vs. Ohio, one Tennessee offensive lineman saw his comfort level - and his first holding penalty - arrive on the same series.

Strange as it sounds, that's what happened for redshirt freshman tackle Aaron Douglas. With injuries forcing some shuffling in the Vol blocking front, the 6-6, 282-pounder started at right tackle against the Bobcats. Naturally, he was a bundle of nerves as kickoff time approached.

"There was definitely a nervousness and anxiousness," he said, adding that "The adrenalin was pumping at the beginning (of the game)."

The adrenalin probably helped on Tennessee's first drive, as the Vols marched 69 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. Douglas' adrenalin may have worked against him on series No. 2, however, as he was flagged for holding on a third-and-four pass attempt. Although he recognizes the irony, he believes that's about the time he began to relax.

"After the first series I was feeling pretty comfortable, getting in a rhythm," he said. "I got a holding call the second series but I got that cleaned up and didn't have any more problems the rest of the game."

The holding call, he says, was simply a matter of improper hand placement.

"That's the main thing for me - keeping my hands in the right place," he said. "That's something I thought I did well toward the end of the last game."

Pass protection is understandably difficult for Douglas, who played tight end on Maryville High School teams that went 60-0 during his four-year stay there. On pass plays he was running routes instead of blocking.

"When I was over in Maryville, they'd line up behind me and I'd run block, so I got a bunch of repetitions at that," he recalled. "But the pass-pro is definitely something I've had to adapt to and keep improving on."

After surmising that he did "an all-right job for my first start," young Douglas acknowledged that his performance got a thumbs-up from his father, former Vol and NFL offensive lineman David Douglas.

"My dad doesn't praise me too much. He's a football guy, and he doesn't want to say too much to me," Aaron said. "But he thought I did well, and it was good to hear him say that. He just told me to keep working hard and keep improving."

Although David is generally low-key, Aaron acknowledged that his dad "gets pretty pumped up sometimes and he'll send me emails with a few pointers."

Aaron's holding call aside, Tennessee's offensive linemen have made precious few mistakes - mental or physical - in the first four games, despite the wholesale shuffling that has taken place. Given the level of instruction they get from line coach James Cregg and grad assistant Mitch Browning, young Douglas isn't surprised.

"Not at all. That's a credit to these coaches," he said. "We study so much and go over so much that guys can play different positions. They teach us so well that if somebody goes down and you have to play another position you're capable of doing that."


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