SEC Country reporter Blake Morgan will candidly answer your Tennessee sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day . Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryVols, Tennessee Insiders Facebook page or by email to Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“Offensive line will dictate the success of 2018. Projected rotation come September?” Chase M. (email)
Chase is absolutely right. Tennessee will go as far in 2018 as the offensive line will allow.
The group is so riddled with injuries that it’s tough to plot out a full two-deep roster at this point.
All-SEC tackle Trey Smith won’t participate in spring drills but is working out with the team. The coaches are real quiet about what is wrong, but it’s a good sign that he’s working out. If Smith isn’t in the lineup then offensive line play will take a big hit.
Assuming Smith is healthy for the season, he will be the starter at left tackle.
The right tackle could be Drew Richmond, who manned the left tackle spot before Smith took the job late last season. Marcus Tatum had a disappointing 2017 campaign, but he could get a look at right tackle, too.
The middle of the line is a bit more up for grabs.
Sophomore Ryan Johnson played fairly well last season at guard and center in the last four games. He’s a smart player who could take over the center role with a solid spring.
Sophomore Riley Locklear and signee Ollie Lane will get looks at the guard spots. Lane has gotten overlooked in the signing class as a 3-star prospect, but he can run block in the trenches, which the coaching staff values.
Signee Jerome Carvin and junior college transfer Jahmir Johnson probably are more natural fits at tackle but might get some looks inside. Carvin was recruited as a guard to Alabama.
Tackle Chance Hall had surgery on a torn ACL a week and a half ago. That recovery time can take 2-6 months, meaning he should be ready in time for the season. There’s no telling where he’ll be physically, though. He would provide much-needed depth to the group.
Expect the coaching staff to move around a lot of the prospects on the line this spring and possibly into the fall to find the right combination.
Tennessee wants a physical line that can set the tone. If the group can play to expectations and stay healthy, Tennessee could surprise a few teams in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season.
For answers to prior Tennessee Questions of the Day, click here .
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