KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Tennessee’s offensive line group is approaching camp with new energy and a lot of experience. The Vols return four of its five starting linemen from last season, and the unit looks to make early strides.
“Progressing fast, this time last year, it’s night and day,” said redshirt-junior Dayne Davis. “Knowing the inside and out of that playbook. I just feel like our O-line group is really tight..sometimes we battle back and forth but competition is good for the room, and we’ve got a lot of that right now.”
“Since last year, the offense has been fast. It’s been fast this year. It’s always going to be fast,” said junior Javontez Spraggins. “We have it figured out, and now we have to run with it. Play ball now.”
The unit added a pair of promising newcomers in Addison Nichols and Briant Grant who enrolled early and practiced in the spring. With the extra time in the system, offensive line coach Glen Ealrbee said he has noticed a difference in the freshmen in the fall–especially Nichols.
“I think the game has slowed down a lot for him. When he makes a mistake, he already knows it versus having to go into the film room, watch it and talk about it,” said Elarbee. “Now the challenge for him is he’s taking a few reps with the two’s and starting to move and take some reps at different positions.”
Elarbee has also noticed a greater sense of accountability and retention in his room.
“If you make a silly mistake, that can’t be us—can’t be what we’re about,” said Elarbee. “They all know better, man. They get in the meeting room it sounds like a freaking chorus or something, like the answers of the questions and everybody saying the same word.”
The returners have also hit the weight room heavily in the offseason and are playing more physically on the line and working on extending plays.
“The weight program was different, the way they had to push and strain,” said Elarbee. “Even going against each other during the summer in drills, they were just different. So, it’ll be exciting. Third down’s really kind of around the corner here, third and shorts. We’ll find out. It’s great news, you always do.”
With the depth of experience on the offensive line, Elarbee isn’t opposed to rotating players to keep guys fresh and healthy.
Tennessee wrapped up its first week of fall camp. The Vols have their first off day on Friday and then hit the practice field again on Saturday for a shoulder pads practice. Fall camp revs up on Sunday as the team has its first full-pads practice.