Dynamic Douglas

When Tennessee averaged just 209.0 yards and 14.0 points in losing Games 2 and 3 this fall, head coach Lane Kiffin decided to make a move.

Instead of changing quarterbacks, however, he changed right tackles - replacing junior Jarrod Shaw with redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas. The move didn't attract much attention at the time but it's beginning to now.

The Vol attack has been far more productive since Douglas joined the lineup, averaging 405.5 yards and 27.7 points per game in his four starts. Kiffin thinks that's no coincidence, although the improved play of quarterback Jonathan Crompton was critical to the rally.

"He's going to be a great tackle for us, and that's been a difference for us," the head man said of Douglas. "It's been a big difference for Jonathan, as you go back and look at some of the other games."

Douglas sat out the 2008 season following surgery on both shoulders, then switched from tight end to tackle last spring. He quickly found a home at the position his father (David) played at UT in the mid-1980s.

"Aaron, as a freshman starting at right tackle for us, has done a great job," Kiffin said. "He's going to have a great future. Whether it's there or left tackle, I don't know, but he's going to have a great future here for a long time. It was a great change, moving him there from tight end."

Douglas, who has added 30 pounds of muscle since enrolling 14 months ago, admits that he's still adapting to his new position and his new role as a first-teamer.

"There's always a little bit of nerves but I think I'm getting more comfortable - not only with the system but being on the field and being a starter," he said. "Every game you get a little more comfortable, knowing your role and what you're supposed to do."

Douglas did plenty of run blocking as a heralded tight end at Maryville High School but did no pass protecting until last spring. After some early struggles, his progress in this area has been dramatic.

"It's just getting comfortable and being patient," he explained. "That's really the thing with pass protection - letting it come to you and counteracting off the defense's move."

Asked if he is as comfortable pass protecting as run blocking, Douglas shrugged and replied, "I'm getting there."

Kiffin knew he would get there in time. That's why he decided to move him into the lineup four games ago. Clearly, the head man isn't afraid to give young players a chance to show what they can do.

"How are they going to show you," the coach asked rhetorically, "if you keep them on the bench and say, 'Well, he's not ready'?"

Actually, the decision to insert Douglas into the lineup was easier than most.

"We made the decision after the Florida game," Kiffin recalled. "He really had not played very much but we'd seen in practice what he could be. We just made the decision to go with the freshman and start him.... We put him in there, and he's taken off."

Douglas has taken off partly because he has the ideal psychological makeup for the job.

"I think a lot of that has to do with his personality," Kiffin said. "This is a highly competitive individual - very tough, very aggressive. When you have that personality, it's always going to make the transition to the offensive line a lot easier."

The fact Douglas is blessed with superior agility and athleticism is an added plus.

"He's a perfect system fit," Kiffin said. "Here's a guy who's about 296 pounds, can really move, really run. That's what we want - athletic guys who can get to the second level and deal with linebackers. He fits really good.

"If we can find a couple more of those we'll win some championships."


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