Butch Jones inherited one of the most talented offensive lines in recent UT history in 2013. Then he promptly inherited the job of rebuilding it in 2014.
Left with little to work with after some poor recruiting by Derek Dooley, the Vols certainly took some lumps in this area, particularly during the 2014 season. Last year, 2015, was certainly a step in the right direction with the sack number falling from 43 to 24. The run game also jumped from No. 13 to No. 2 in the conference.
It’s a team effort for both of those categories, but the offensive line had a ton to do with those improvements. And young players such as Chance Hall and Jack Jones had a lot to do with that. In addition, some players who were thrown into the fire early in 2014 such as Jashon Robertson, Dylan Wiesman, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas and others, used that experience to progress last season.
Kyler Kerbyson moves on after a successful senior year at left tackle. Wiesman and the seldom-used Dontavius Blair are the only two rising scholarship seniors on the 2016 team. So while there isn’t a pressing need to load up at this position, the coaches must look down the roster a bit and realize that three players with starting experience – Kendrick, Thomas and Robertson – are entering their junior season.
In total, at least six scholarship offensive linemen will be departing in the next two years. Finding about three more linemen to join the young nucleus, plus the three that were signed last year, makes sense for this class.
Here’s a look at some of the key names to know in the 2017 class on the offensive line: