Lean in the lines

He saw just four players listed at defensive tackle - none with a college start to his credit. He saw just one returning starter in the offensive line. Admittedly, Terry Joseph found the lack of depth in some key areas a little shocking when he signed on as Tennessee's recruiting coordinator last January.

"Yeah. In different programs different positions are affected in those kind of ways," said Joseph, who followed new UT head man Derek Dooley to Knoxville from Louisiana Tech. "At Louisiana Tech it was receiver."

Fortunately for the Vols, their outlook at defensive tackle has brightened a bit since Joseph came on board in January with the switch of ends Rae Sykes and Steven Fowlkes to tackle. Conversely, the outlook in the offensive line has gotten even worse since the lone returning starter, Aaron Douglas, decided to transfer.

Even with Sykes and Fowlkes providing two more bodies, Tennessee's defensive tackle outlook remains somewhat shaky. As for the outlook across the blocking front ... well, it's a notch below shaky. Still, Joseph is philosophical about the shortcomings in both lines.

"The good thing and bad thing is, everybody in America doesn't have a ton of D-line and offensive linemen," he said. "We've got to beat the bushes, pound the pavement and find us some guys.

"There are some guys out there. We'll get 'em in here, Chuck (D-line coach Smith) and Harry (O-line coach Hiestand) will coach 'em up and we'll be fine. We are lacking at those positions right now. That's obvious, but we're going to make up for it and we're going to be OK."

Because eight of Tennessee's 10 coaches are new this year, the Vols are behind in the recruiting process. Thus, they need to to build relationships with a lot of prospects this spring.

"Coach Dooley is a real hands-on recruiter, so it's important that we get 'em here as early as we can and as many times as we can - to get them to know us better and to get to know them better," Joseph said. "We want to know what kind of person they are, what they believe in, how they're going to respond to adversity.

"The more we know about them - and the more they know about us - the better the comfort level is. Then, when it's decision time, they're probably going to go where they feel most comfortable."

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