O-Line Pride

This summer was all about offensive line pride. Cody Pope spoke with the media following the first day of fall camp for the football team to tell everyone about the new Tennessee offensive line.

One of the main concerns for Tennessee football fans heading into the fall is no doubt an offensive line that returns no starters from 2009.

While Tennessee fans may have never seen this offensive line, the players have seen plenty of each other.

"We all hang out together, eat together, we do everything together," said center Cody Pope.

"Its really cool because we didn't get to know each other like this a couple years ago. Now, we are really coming together and that's what it is all about."

The group of newcomers has been hard at work during the off season to develop not only the skills to compete in the SEC, but a bond among themselves.

"Honestly, as an offensive line, this is my fourth year, I have never worked so hard as a unit," Pope said. "I feel like this offensive line is a unit."

Even defensive veteran Chris Walker is beginning to see a change in the trenches.

"They have really come together as a unit," Walker said. "That O-line pride thing is just something to show that they have come together as a unit."

Pope said that offensive line coach Harry Hiestand brought the "O-Line Pride" term to Tennessee, and there is no doubt it has been a factor in the unit's new mentality.

"He has really started the O-line pride," Pope said. "He has taught us what that is all about. That is the biggest thing he has brought to Tennessee."

Quarterback Matt Simms said the bond among the guys up front will be invaluable heading into the 2010 season and cited Pope for taking it upon himself to boost that chemisty.

"It's definitely important that our offensive line bond together and act more as a unit," Simms said. "It was special to see that. Guys like Cody took it upon themselves to get in, work hard and learn the offense."

While Simms may see Pope as a leader, the center says that Head Coach Derek Dooley wants all of his linemen to be leaders.

"He wants everyone to be a leader and be accountable for yourself," Pope said. "I am going to do my best to lead this team in any way that I can. I think we are all trying to do that and be accountable for each other."

The California native is currently locked in a battle with several of his teammates for the starting spot at the center position - one that Simms said has created some intense competition.

"It's going to be tough for anybody really," Simms said. "There is a lot of competition going on there. There are a lot of great players in that spot.

"They are all going to put pressure on each other. Whoever learns the fastest and plays the best in camp will be the guy."

Simms added that he took up to 100 snaps per day during the summer to help remedy what was a more than shaky spring for center-quarterback exchanges.

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