The Tennessee Volunteers enter year two of the Butch Jones Era with a number of question marks. And if it’s true that games are won in the trenches, those questions loom even larger than most for the boys from Knoxville.
At last week’s SEC Media Days, Jones noted that Tennessee is the only team in the country that must replace its entire offensive and defensive lines. Before any other questions are answered on Rocky Top this fall, the questions about the lines must be answered.
Tennessee will have some experience on the lines this fall, but no returning starters. On the offensive line, as many as three juniors could start, but all have seen only limited playing time during their time in orange.
Mack Crowder, a redshirt junior, could be the starter at center. He has played in 10 career games with one start. Guard Marcus Jackson started five games as a freshman, but did not play last season. The other guard, Kyler Kerbyson, has played in 19 games without a start. At tackle, junior college transfer Dontavious Blair projects as a starter, as does freshman Coleman Thomas.
On defense, end Jordan Thomas has eight career starts and has posted four and a half sacks in three seasons. Sophomore Corey Vereen played in nine games last season and recorded a sack.
Junior college transfer Owen Williams looks to be a starter at tackle, along with sophomore Danny O’Brien, who played in all 12 games last season.
If Tennessee is to improve on last season’s 5-7 mark, the line play must get better, and quickly.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.