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For Tennessee's offensive line, there's no more right or left.
From now on, it's right and left.
This spring, Tennessee's offensive line faced a serious adjustment to new coordinator Dave Clawson's offense.
Namely, players are playing both sides of the line.
Versatility up front is nothing new under veteran offensive line coach Greg Adkins, who encourages players to learn as much about every position as possible.
Neither is the idea of designating strong and weak side on the offensive line, or in Clawson's parlance "strong" and "quick."
It isn't new for UT coach Phillip Fulmer, either.
When Fulmer played at Tennessee, the Vols designated linemen quick and strong. He coached it the same way as an assistant with Vanderbilt and Wichita State.
"A lot of people do it around the country," Fulmer said. "There are certain advantages to it. It was kind of right down my alley from a multiplicity standpoint. They've got the hang of it right now."
After 14 practices this spring, it's coming along, but the shake-up has made life a little different on the offensive line.
"It's like trying to write left-handed," says tackle Ramon Foster.
The premise is simple.
A tackle like Foster has the ability to line up at either the right or left tackle spot on any given play, depending on where the ball is on the field and the play called.
The idea is to create a favorable matchup for the line - and cut down on the amount of practice repetitions needed to familiarize players with various defensive schemes.
"You always talk about mismatches with offensive skill players - getting a tailback matched up on a linebacker, getting a wide receiver matched up on a safety," Clawson says. "I like to apply that to the guys up front. If we're going to run a critical play at a critical time, I want to make sure I have flexibility to move the offensive linemen where I want them."
For Foster, the change means a change of scenery, too.
Instead of working primarily against one defensive end this spring, he's been lined up against nearly every end on the roster.
"It was an awakening," Foster said. "I wasn't just going against Wes Brown this spring, I was going against Robert Ayers. That's going to be same thing in the first game of the year. You got to study both sides. It's going to take a whole lot more detail and just film review this year."
So far, it's been a major adjustment up front, and one that will continue into fall camp.
"It's something our kids have had to adapt to, but it shouldn't be foreign in terms of being a right-sided and a left-sided player," Adkins said. "Even before we put in the strong side and quick side, our kids were working as right-sided or left-sided players, especially in the fundamental and technique-work time in practice. Now they're getting more reps in a live situation."
The learning curve has affected the speed of play for UT's line this spring. It also requires a little more technique work to develop the kind of football ambidexterity linemen need.
It was slow going at first, but Foster said he and his teammates have picked up speed in the last half of spring practice.
"It was a little shaky at first, but we took the challenge and got used to something we had to work on," he said. "It's been better this second half of practice. Not necessarily assignment wise, but as far as just technique it's been better."
Still, there's a lot of improvement left to make before the Vols travel to California for their season-opener against UCLA in September.
"It's still a work in progress for some of them on the left side as compared to some of them on the right," Adkins said. "We're not anywhere near where we need to be to be game-ready yet, but it's a group that will stay willing and hungry throughout the summer to get themselves ready for UCLA."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.