Many of the storylines went about as expected. Justin Worley won the starting quarterback job, the offensive and defensive lines had some growing pains and it looks like UT has upgraded its roster, overall, in terms of speed and pure talent with the addition of the 32 newcomers.
But one move that virtually nobody saw coming appears to be more and more of a reality. After starting camp at defensive tackle, true freshman Jashon Robertson continues to get work as the first-team right guard.
It’s a move that the coaches didn’t even fully anticipate over the summer and into camp as Robertson started out on the opposite side of the ball.
“A lot of the work I did in the offseason really came on the defensive side of the ball as far as skill development, technique and meetings and everything,” said Robertson. “We made the switch during training camp and the older guys and offensive line coaches really helped with the transition.”
Jones has regularly said that the development of the freshmen is going at a different pace for each one. Robertson’s maturity and feel for the game is clearly advancing at an accelerated rate.
“Jashon’s done a great job,” Jones said. “It’s been a big benefit of having him on the offensive side of the ball. He hasn’t hit the freshman training camp barrier. He’s brought it each and every day.”
A decorated high school wrestler at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Robertson credits that sport with a lot of his development as a lineman
“Wrestling, it works wonders,” he said. “I’ve seen guys on my team in high school that they had a year or two of wrestling and they came on the football field a totally different football players. It helps with your balance, hands, leverage – everything. It perfectly relates to football.”
Robertson’s move to the offensive side and into the starting role has an effect on the other linemen. Kyler Kerbyson has bumped out to right tackle after working all of spring and much of camp at the right guard spot. Coleman Thomas, who used to work as the top right tackle, is now working as the second team right tackle.
“It’s kind of where we’re at in the program,” Jones said. Realistically, [Kerbyson] would probably be more of a guard than a tackle. He’s answered that challenge and he’s performed on a consistent basis. Again, he’s athletic, but he’s very, very smart. He’s a smart football player and we need him to be a smart football player.”
All of the veterans – Kerbyson, Mack Crowder, Jacob Gilliam and Marcus Jackson especially – have stepped up to help Robertson with the mental aspect of the game as he tries to grasp the playbook.
“I felt at home immediately because of the guys in that room,”Robertson said. “Coach [Mahoney], AP (offensive graduate assistant Anthony Parker), who was an All-American here, all of my brothers in the room that have helped to push me and been by my side. I can give you an instance where every offensive lineman has helped me with things, every one of them has helped me with something.”
Saulsberry update: Some in Tennessee’s program feared the worst when Trevarris Saulsberry went down Saturday night in the open practice and couldn’t put any weight on his left leg.
It appears Tennessee might’ve avoid the worst-case scenario, however. Butch Jones said that it was a re-aggravation of a past knew injury, and he would miss anything from a couple of days to a week. Saulsberry was a spectator at practice on crutches, though he didn’t have any brace or cast on.