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The Future of Tennessee’s O-Line Arrives On Campus

The core of Tennessee’s offensive line has come and gone in waves in recent years.

Ja’Wuan James, Zach Fulton, James Stone, Alex Bullard and Tiny Richardson all left after the 2013 season. Many of the key parts that replaced them – Dylan Wiesman, Coleman Thomas, Brett Kendrick and Jashon Robertson, are all either gone or entering their senior year.

Tennessee’s next wave has trickled in over the past couple classes, but a huge part of it sat in the Peyton Manning Locker Room on Thursday afternoon when Tennessee’s early enrollees met the media for the first time.

One is already a household name among Tennessee fans: Trey Smith, ranked as high as the No. 1 overall player in the nation. The other, Riley Locklear, a versatile offensive lineman from West Virginia, might not have the star power that Smith does. Both, however, said they’re looking to do whatever it takes to continue the UT tradition of “OLP” (O-line pride).

“I got Riley’s number, I texted him and I was just like, ‘It’s going to be up to us to set the tempo the next couple years,'” Smith said. “Eventually, not now, right now we’re just trying to make a name, but right now we have a really good relationship just being O-linemen together. We stick together, we talk together. You know the OLP – they’ve really embraced us.”

Smith, who chose Tennessee over offers from virtually every program in the nation, said his bond with some of the offensive linemen already on campus played a big factor in his decision to choose his home-state school over others.

“Tennessee just means so much more – the representation of my brand, things that Coach Jones really introduced to me in my recruitment, those are all factors that really led up to it,” he said. “I think one of the biggest things that really led me to come to the University of Tennessee is the players. Great men – the players are the guys that are really going be my inspiration, the guys that I’m going to work with everyday in the training facility, the guys that I’m going to get better with and the guys who are really going to mold me.”

“That’s unreal,” Locklear added, speaking about the opportunity to play with Smith the next few years. “Getting those kinds of athletes here and being able to play with them. Trey, obviously, is a great offensive lineman and a great guy. I’ve spent a few days with him. To be able to play right next to him and know him individually is something I’ll be looking forward to.”

Both Locklear and Smith played primarily tackle in high school.

Neither, however, is set on one spot on the offensive line. That fits with Tennessee’s philosophy of cross-training players at different spots. Smith, who said part of his decision to enroll early was so that he could get his degree in three years and possibly his masters in four, sees offensive line versatility as a potential selling point for him in the NFL.

“Right now I’m just going to do whatever my coaches tell me,” he said. “I’m not going to say I have any set position. Playing offensive line – you have eight positions for an NFL offensive linemen traveling on the road. The more positions you can play, the better you are, the more versatile you are, the more money you can make one day essentially.”

That day is still several years away, but based on his potential, it seems like somewhere he can get. But first his focus is all on teaming up with Locklear and any other offensive linemen who end up signing in February to help lead the Vols back to a championship level.

“All I can say is take it day-by-day,” Smith added. “My high school coach said it best, there’s no foretold history. It’s not written in stone. All I’m going to is look forward to everyday, drop my head down and compete and just see what happens.”

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