Ja’Wuan James Returns to Work With O-Line

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    Offensive LineOne of the best rookie offensive linemen in the NFL returned to Knoxville over the past week to get some offseason work in and to mentor some of UT’s offensive linemen as well.

    Ja’Wuan James, who started 16 games for the Miami Dolphins after being selected No. 19 overall in the 2014 NFL draft and who was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team, has been the most high-profile member of team workouts.

    “Ja’Wuan has actually been here for the past week and he’s gone through position drills with us and I’ve learned a lot from him,” said left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, who is working to make the LT spot his more natural home over the offseason. “I’m just a sponge trying to soak everything in from what he’s learned in the NFL and he really has helped me with my sets, my punch and all that stuff.”

    James, a four-year starter from 2010-13 at UT, was part of a unit that essentially grew up on the job – several of them starting, and struggling, as freshmen and then growing into arguably the best offensive line in the conference in 2013. Four of the five starters from 2013 are currently on an NFL roster including James, tackle Tiny Richardson (Viking), guard Zach Fulton (Chiefs) and center James Stone (Falcons).

    Kerbyson said, after the new offensive line struggled in 2014, giving up a league-worst 43 sacks, that they draw some hope and confidence from the progress that James and the former offensive line made after getting some experience under their belt.

    “We haven’t gone that far in depth (in terms of setting a specific goal for 2015), but if I can remember correctly when Ja’Wuan (James) and all those guys first started, they gave up around 50 (sacks) and the next year they gave up eight, so we’re hoping for that.”