Robbie Caldwell: The good part of it is that we have everybody back; they were all green last year, some of them had a little playing experience, of course, so we battled through the year and did okay. Certainly not where we wanted to be but we're headed that way now. Every one of them to the man improved in the spring.
Tackle position, you know Thomas Welch, we are working him some of the left side some now. James Williams really stepped up, a big ole guy that did well and got an opportunity to start at the right position. Reilly Lauer, who started all last year, if back. The biggest problem with Reilly is that he has not put on weight like we expected him to. I'd like to see him work a little harder in the weight room but he certainly has talent and has an opportunity to take over a starting position again. We have Ryan Seymour who is a kid that moved over from defense and has just been outstanding to give us some added depth. He's playing tackle on the left side now. Caleb Welchans is a red shirt freshman; he's been working on the right side. They have all progressed and had a good spring. I moved Michael Bryant inside to guard and he gives us an athletic big guy there. He's got to have a good summer in the weight room; it'll really help him some. He did a good job and has a lot to learn about the system, obviously, moving from one system into another kind of upset his apple cart a little but he's a grasp of it now. Of course, Kyle Fischer can work tackle or guard. He started most of the season at guard last year. He's working two spots and doing outstanding, made the all-SEC freshman team. Ryan Custer had his best spring. He stepped up physically and did better. You know, he started the year at guard and then Kyle Fischer took over but being a senior it was good to see him step up and have a good summer. He's starting at the left guard spot. Eric Hensley, of course, is a lot better now after played guard for a while. His ankle is 100 percent healed from when he broke it in the spring a year ago. He's a lot better in that regard. You have Bradley Vierling at center who has just been outstanding. He made progress; he got more physical, bigger and stronger, really progressed there. Elected Captain again a second time by his teammates, that'll tell you how they feel about him.
Joey Bailey, who began the season as a starter at guard and stepped aside when Eric got well, he's concentrating more on center. He's still playing two positions but he had a good spring playing center and got bigger and stronger. He's about 285-290 pounds right now, about 240 when we signed him. He's right on course; he's really done well. You know some of these guys had to play early before they were ready but that was part of the allure that attracted them here; they all got on the field. Chris Aaron is working extra hard at center. He's had a good spring; making progress. Richard Cagle lost a lot of weight, he's been sick a lot, all kinds of viruses, I don't know what in the world happened to that boy. He's lost a loooot [emphasis] of weight. He's working his tail off to get back up. He's probably 250 pounds right now so hopefully it's coming back. He did a better job in the classroom this spring. Hopefully he'll get back up; obviously he can't play at that weight. He's got to get stronger in the weight room. All these guys have got to continue to get stronger. We've signed them undersized and they are athletic so we are really dependent upon them to get in there and do the job we expect them to do with our strength coaches, who are phenomenal. Coach Sisk and them do a great job in there. If they would just give in to it and go in there and work and eat and do what they are supposed to do with Majic it's no problem. The work ethic in there is just critical upon being a good offensive lineman. I'm expecting big things from Thomas Welch. He's got to develop a killer instinct. I guess that's not politically correct to say that word. A more dominant instinct, finishing blocks, that's what this group has got to learn to do. They haven't learned to just finish and be physical and mash people in the dirt and stay after them and claw and scratch and do whatever they have to do to get their man. You know, a lot of that comes from getting to play too soon and not having to pay the price. Hopefully these guys are learning, they got a taste of how fun it is to go to a bowl game and win. It creates a little more commitment, hopefully that'll pay off for us; I'm excited about that aspect of it.
Coach Caldwell expects great things out of offensive tackle Thomas Welch. (VM/Stan Jones)