Tennessee’s first depth chart of the season revealed a starting group of (from left to right) Kyler Kerbyson, Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas OR Mack Crowder, Dylan Wiesman and Thomas OR Brett Kendrick.
Butch Jones gave his standard line about depth charts on Monday, reminding that they’re not set in stone and really only tell who will trot out on the field first when the Vols face Bowling Green on Saturday in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.
“In terms of the overall depth chart, we don’t really have depth charts in our football program,” Jones said. “They are organizational charts. The way I look at it is we are trying to find a starting eight, starting nine and starting 10. All a depth chart is is who takes the field first. We will continue to compete at the position just like every other position. Our offensive line has worked really hard. They have made great progress and tremendous strides in moving forward. It is a great situation that we have right now that we still have individuals battling it out. They will continue to battle it out. I look at us having eight or nine starters.”
And while it’s true that depth is important and there will be mixing and matching at times in all likelihood, finding the best five starters on the offensive line might be the biggest hurdle the Vols need to clear in 2015 if they’re to reach the heights that many are predicting them to. This report from WNML-FM’s Jimmy Hyams gives a good clue as to who those first five will be.
UT senior C Mack Crowder (12 career starts) missed practice Monday, upset he won’t start v. Bowling Green. He will return to practice today
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) September 1, 2015
If true, going back to the depth chart, that puts Thomas at center in all likelihood, thus meaning Kendrick is the starting right tackle. That offensive line would be:
LT: Kyler Kerbyson
LG: Jashon Robertson
C: Coleman Thomas
RG: Dylan Wiesman
RT: Brett Kendrick
Only time will tell, but that might be the best five the Vols have right now on the offensive line. Perhaps most importantly, it seems to be an immediate fix to some of the problems that plagued the Vols the most in 2014.
Thomas often got exposed in space at right tackle (see: The entire matchup against OU’s Eric Striker), and Crowder sometimes struggled to get a much push against stronger and bigger defensive tackles. Thomas sliding inside gives the Vols a little more bulk and power in the interior of the line. Kendrick manning the right tackle spot likely gives an athletic upgrade to that spot.
I’m not suggesting the problems are solved on the offensive line – far from it. And as Jones mentioned, the depth chart is fluid and perhaps the Vols end up going with a different look entirely.
Regardless, It’ll be an uphill climb to respectability for this group after a disastrous 2014 campaign. And the reported removal of Crowder from the starting lineup takes away a lot of the brains of the line. He’s been responsible for setting a lot of the protections. Getting the Vols in the right situation against the variety of defenses they will face in 2015 will be no easy task for somebody without his experience. At least it appears however, that the Vols might have their best five getting the starting nod against Bowling Green and have some options behind them in Crowder, Jack Jones and others.
Perhaps that’s a step in the right direction for an offensive line that still has a long way to go.