Offensive rapport

Veteran sportswriter Dave Hooker goes one-on-one with Cody Pope and Jarrod Shaw. Go "Inside" this feature story on two offensive linemen for the Vols that will have to perform well if Tennessee is going to be successful this fall.

Many questioned that Cody Pope and Jarrod Shaw would even be in this position. Preseason starting slots for those two? Nah. Surely a talented youngster would pass them on the depth chart, but that didn't happen. Cody Pope is a junior starting center and Jarrod Shaw is a senior starting right guard.

A drop in talent at Tennessee opened the door for the duo, but their dedication to improving shouldn't be overlooked. Dave Hooker visited with the two about their ascension into the starting lineup, the bond they have and the food they eat.

Dave: Cody let me start with you. Derek Dooley came out this fall and – to some extent even back in the spring – settled on five (starting offensive linemen) pretty early where other coaches might have put people in and out throughout the preseason. How much do you think that helps you build chemistry?

Cody: I think it definitely builds really good chemistry. Just being able to come together in the summer and kind of knowing who we are all gonna have together and then we are all doing stuff together throughout the summer, whether it was just going out eating, hanging out at someone's house on a Saturday night. Playing video games. Just little stuff. Working out together.

Just all being together as a unit, as one unit, and then we brought in the two (second string) guys and the three (third string) guys. We didn't exclude anybody, but we always had that solid core group of five guys that were always there and we always knew where we were and we always brought everyone together. I think that was a huge thing.

Dave: Jarrod, did you see that chemistry building over the summer?

Jarrod: Definitely, definitely. Over the summer you get used to the other guys who you are playing next to. I know what (right tackle) Ja'Wuan is gonna do. I know his tendencies. I know what Cody's going to do. I know his tendencies. So definitely. I mean you get used to it. You get used to everybody's tendencies and when they are kind of feeling down you know how to motivate them to get back up.

Dave: Does it also show that the coaches have some faith in you five guys early and does that give you a little confidence?

Jarrod: Definitely. It also gets you confidence in the unit. Coach (Harry) Hiestand and Coach Dooley those guys kind of, it makes me feel like he has confidence in what we are doing and how we are progressing as a unit. So definitely.

Dave: Cody's always hard on himself when he talks about snapping the ball (especially out of the shotgun). How has he done this preseason? You tell me because he's gonna say he's not happy with it. I guarantee you.

Jarrod: It's better. It's better than it was in the spring. Definitely, it's way better. You know. It's a work in progress. He's going to keep getting better at it. He's doing fine.

Dave: How much better is it Cody?

Cody: Well, if you ask me from the spring until now it's night and day. Even from Saturday until today it's better, I can honestly say that. Coach Hiestand, watching film, he keeps on telling me I have to hit the bull's eye, and the bull's eye is in the middle of the guy's chest. Can't be the right armpit. It can't be his upper thigh. It has to be right in the middle of his chest.

So when I'm looking at film and I'm like, ‘Oh, I hit him right in the armpit. That didn't look that bad.' He's like, ‘No. It's not right in the middle of his chest.' So when I was saying, ‘Oh, that was alright for me,' it wasn't alright for him. So now I'm realizing where it has to be every time, and I have to take that next step to try and be perfect on my snaps and try to hit that bull's eye every time.

Dave: You know you two guys in particular have kind of been here awhile and you have fought to get in this position. Do you guys have a little bit of a bond since you are now playing together?

Jarrod: Yeah. Definitely … We have both been in the program … I think in the past six months, maybe since January, we definitely came close together knowing that we were going to play next to each other and it's part of that bond that we can build as an O-Line, but definitely being the oldest two guys on the line – well, he's older than me but don't tell nobody that – but definitely, you know being together and being the oldest guys on the line, yeah.

Dave: Jarrod, let me ask you about Ja'Wuan James. When you look to your right, how much talent do you see there?

Jarrod: A lot. A lot. He doesn't realize how much talent he has, and Coach Hiestand every day is trying to pull it out of him. You know. He can't play like a freshman. Has to play like a sophomore or maybe a junior. I look at that guy sometimes and I just wish I had what he had.

Dave: Cody, I've never heard you say that line calls were hard for you. Did you grasp that mentally pretty easily?

Cody: At first, no. Coach (Hiestand) really challenged me to become a more vocal leader out there. I mean, I knew what I was doing, but I didn't know that JerQuari didn't know if he was doing it, or make sure that Ja'Wuan knew what he was doing, or Jarrod or (left tackle) Dallas (Thomas). I have to make sure everybody knows what they are doing.

I had to make sure that everybody knows what type of (defensive) front it was, and I can't just mentally sit up there and go, ‘OL, this is an over front in my head.' I have to go up there and say, ‘This is bear. Hey, this is over.' And I have to scream it out loud so that everybody can hear it. I mean, hopefully 100,000 (fans in Neyland Stadium) can hear it. But I understand you won't be able to hear it with 100,000, but as long as the starting five can hear it. That's the biggest thing.

Dave: (Cody), you are a well-documented vegetarian, which is rare among offensive linemen.

Cody: Let alone in the South.

Dave: Yeah, let alone in the South. Have any of your teammates even gotten you close to trying meat? Was it ever even close?

Cody: Yeah. We've been in Gibbs Hall before and people have put some bacon in my mashed potatoes. When you sit down at the table and you're about to eat and you kind of look to your left and look to your right and everybody's watching … I mean, I was about 19 years old and this time it wasn't the first time that anybody's tried this. So, I kind of had an idea what was going on. Looked at my veggie burger. Looked at my mashed potatoes. Guys. Come on. Really?

Dave: Jarrod, has he gotten you close to eating sushi yet?

Jarrod: One time and it was terrible. I hate sushi. I tried it another time with my girlfriend and I almost threw up. It was just a bad sushi experience.

Cody: How about Mexican food?

Jarrod: Mexican food is great.

Cody: And who got you on that?

Jarrod: He got me on Mexican food. I'll give him that, but sushi is terrible.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories