It has obviously been a rough start to the 2014 season for Tennessee’s rebuilt offensive line. The group that entered the season returning less than 10 starts between them has now surrendered 18 sacks through the first five games of the season, which is already three more than last year’s line gave up in 12 games. The running game has had its moments, but has yet to have the type of game that Tennessee fans are accustomed to.
The early season injury to senior left tackle Jacob Gilliam has forced a lot of shifting along the offensive line that has left certain players – namely, Kyler Kerbyson – playing at positions that they aren’t best-suited for and the constant shuffling has slowed the ability of the line to develop continuity and really gel as a unit.
But, as frustrating as things are for fans and coaches alike right now, the Vols have survived this very situation before and gone on to field an exceptional offensive line. Former Vol and current Miami Dolphin Ja’Wuan James – who was in town last week – took to Twitter this evening to remind Vol fans of his first year along the offensive line at Tennessee
Yall have faith in the OLP @ TN I know its tough those guys are grinding We gave up 46 sacks our freshman year & look how we turned out #VFL
— Ja’Wuan James (@JawuanJames70) October 8, 2014
The thought of surrendering 46 sacks this year won’t be comforting to anyone, but James’ message proves that young players do develop, they do improve and one bad season does not ultimately define a career.
One of James’ former teammates and current Kansas City Chiefs guard Zach Fulton, was in town yesterday to meet with the team and provide some encouragement to his successors along the line as well. He was seen walking through the complex after practice and made sure to catch Butch Jones before Jones addressed the media.
Jones had this to say about having former linemen stop by to offer tips to current players:
“It is great to see Zach Fulton out here, last week we had Ja’Wuan James. I think it speaks volumes for Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and our football program when these individuals in the National Football League have a week off for a bye week and they chose to come spend it with us. Very proud of these young men and to have them back, obviously, Ja’Wuan last week and now Zach here this week, really excited for them.”
Now, if only they could suit up for the Vols the rest of the way.