Gone: Kyler Kerbyson (graduation), Marcus Jackson (graduation), Mack Crowder (graduation), Dontavius Blair (transfer), Ray Raulerson (transfer)
Returning: Dylan Wiesman (Sr.), Jashon Roberston (Jr.), Coleman Thomas (Soph.), Brett Kendrick (RS Jr.), Drew Richmond (RS Fr.), Chance Hall (Soph., Out 4-6 weeks with knee injury), Jack Jones (Soph.), Austin Sanders (RS Jr.), Venzell Boulware (RS Fr.), Charles Mosley (RS Soph.)
Newcomers: Nathan Niehaus (Fr.), Marcus Tatum (Fr.), Ryan Johnson (Fr.)
What a difference a year makes. The 2014 offensive line was one of the most-maligned groups in school history, but the narrative shifted in 2015. After giving up a league-worst 43 sacks in 2014, the Vols cut that down to a very respectable 24 in 2015.
And after checking in at 13th in the conference in rushing in 2014 (146.3 ypg), the Vols put together their second-best rushing season ever in 2015, piling up 223.7 yards per contest, good for second in the league.
Of course the more mobile Joshua Dobbs and the emergence of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara certainly played into those numbers. But this line, which at times was a bit patchwork as injuries mounted, certainly surpassed the low expectations many put on it.
Left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, who was a pleasant surprise in 2015, moves on, but virtually every other important piece from last year returns, giving UT one of the most experienced and cohesive units in the league.
Projected starting right tackle Chance Hall is on the shelf for approximately 4-6 week, but Brett Kendrick is a more than capable replacement. The emergence of Drew Richmond on the left side could be the wild card as to how effective this group will be in 2016. The interior should be among the best in the league.
By the numbers:
- 19: How many fewer sacks the Vols allowed in 2015 compared to 2014
- 71: Total number of career starts offensive linemen on the roster have
- 77.4: How many more yards per game rushing the Vols average in 2015 compared to 2014
- 6: The number of O-linemen on the roster who have started at least one game
Projected initial depth chart:
With Hall’s injury, it all but assures that Drew Richmond, Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas, Dylan Wiesman and Brett Kendrick will be the starting five to begin the season until Hall returns to add competition at tackle. Jack Jones would likely be the next man in, while Venzell Boulware, Charles Mosley, Austin Sanders and the newcomers are all battling for playing time as well.
Ideally, the three freshmen would be able to redshirt, but with Hall down for the first bit of the season, one or more of them may be needed for depth. Nathan Niehaus, who needs to add some weight, might be the most likely candidate.