RC: We've got five returning starters coming back if you include Brian Stamper (photo right) who got an extra year from back surgery because he was an all-conference player who'd never been redshirted who, of course, hurt his back. The NCAA granted him another year, which we really feel like they did the right thing and we appreciate that. That's a big plus, having that type of experience. You know, last year Elliot Hood had the hurt arm and had to fill in for him and then we moved Thomas Welch over there and he'd never played offensive line and he did a great job, some people were able to get some experience. As it turned out Elliot Hood's mother is battling cancer and so he graduated and transferred closer to home to play his last year so we lost a guy there but gained Brian Stamper back. Getting Brian back we gained a starter that is very experienced and was a All-SEC player, I think second team, so that's a plus.
At the other tackle we've got Chris Williams (photo at left) back for his senior year. He's just been outstanding, had a great spring, by the way, Brian didn't get to go through the spring, he broke his foot on the second day of practice. He had never had an injury up to that; he got them all at one time. Anyway, Chris had a great spring; he's grown mentally and physically. He was just outstanding, was elected team captain, you know Brian was captain the year before; that says a bunch about those two and how well they are thought of. I'm looking for a big year. Athlon has named Chris as a third team All-American [LINK]. It was just announced today that he is on the Outland Trophy list. Again, I'm not the best in the world at all the statistics. I don't put a lot of stock in that anyway because I go by how they play but I am very proud of that. I like for them to receive accolades, obviously, because they work hard. It's a lot easier for them glory boys to get them things than it is for a lineman so when they get something it's pretty special.
Eric Hensley, talking tackle position now, and Thomas Welch has a really good spring. Thomas Welch has really come along. He's 290 pounds now, having been a tight end and quarterback before that, and is very athletic. He's had a chance to learn a little bit about the system and so that's just made him more comfortable.
Eric Hensley (photo at left)is a kid, local product here in Tennessee as well, that just needed to grow and learn to play and got his shoulders fixed, got one of them anyway. He's doing much better and I'm excited for him and he's really made a lot of progress. Hopefully we've got a little depth there now, some of these guys to played; Thomas got to play, both of them got to play last year. Thomas and Eric will be the backups at tackle.
Hopefully we have two nice true freshmen coming in here that have been doing well over the summer that we'll be able to redshirt and let them grow and mature. In the past we've had to play freshmen, hopefully we won't have to do that this year.
VM: Those are some big guys, they look like they are ready for SEC play already!
Well, Kyle Fischer (photo at right) and James Williams, (photo at left) as you know, are their names. Some of my guys have been talking about just how they have done coming in here. Usually they don't do that well running, the big boys, and they have prepared themselves and they've worked hard and I tell you what, they've really been impressive. That comes from the players, not me. That's always good when they do that.