Vols adjust to new line of work

'Strong, quick' system means players must handle learning both sides now

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.

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Comments » 75

gavol2572 writes:

I hope this doesnt set us up to be predictable like seeing the tailback run to a certain side of the line depending on which lineman is playing on a certain side.

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

jovi, that says it all!

Look folks, I'm pumped up about the prospects with this new offensive philosophy. I think Tennessee is the big SEC sleeper team for the 08 season. I believe our defense will be much improved over last year. I think outstanding play in the secondary (best in the nation) will take some burden off the DL and permit Chavis to call more pass pressure plays. I look for lots of interceptions and defensive scoring.

I believe the new offense will be slow off the block, but defense will win us the close games early on. I'll take a loss to Florida or Georgia... but I think we lose two at most going into November, and we all know UTs November reputation. UCLA is a win and gives us a boost of confidence for the season.

Lets give Fulmer the benefit of the doubt that he made a good hire with Clawson. This might just be the best UT team since 98.

tigervol9802 writes:

vol_in_lsu_land -

Man, I didn't know Mikey H started mailing the Kool Aid to folks away from Knoxville. Does he charge a premium for it?

In all seriousness, I hope you are right, and I do like this wrinkle. Same philosophy as match-up receivers on d-backs. You want to match your playmakers up on the weakest guy. Same philosohpy here. Off the top of my head, it would seem like a defense could be confused awfully quickly if they tried to call the defense based on how we lined our linemen up. I'd say we will be in a lot of quick counts on the line this fall so defense cannot adjust, especially in short yardage.

RJ_Vol writes:

It just goes along w/ Clawson's much proclaimed philosophy of getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers...and that means getting his best linemen in favorable matchups. It also opens the door for a lot "slight of hand" formations IMO.

Ex. Your best lineman lines up right. The computer percentage show right. So....you run left. AND You can fatigue a player from the other team by playing several players against him throughout the game etc.

I like Clawson's philosophy so far. Any coach reading this article knows that practicing for the Tennessee game will take more time than normal. It's some nice gamesmanship to release this kind of information.

GreerVol22 writes:

no, no, no, this has to stop! Moving players around , learning multiple positions, not allowing the D time to adjust and above all else, letting players make plays. Its madness I tell you, madness!

cdldoc#211897 writes:

The practice news is awful good like it was just before the team went t-ts up 2 years ago. Calauson hasn't worked in a SEC game yet. I hope this team is great.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Kool-aid flowing. Hope you guys are right and we're ready Sept 1.

murrayvol writes:

We've given him the benefit of the doubt for 10 years vol_in_bayouville. What's another 1 or 6?

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

Kool-aid is good stuff. I like the sugar free variety, though I usually get Crystal Lite. You can mix it with gelatin and your spirit of choice and it makes a great shooter. Its great frozen on a popsicle stick or toothpick in the summer months. Or the old stand by of just spiking it with Vodka is great. Yum.

Orange Kool-aid is the best flavor of all. Goes good in the morning with a cup of coffee and an apple fritter. A little molasses on a buscuit and I'm in heaven.

Easy and lazy to expect the worst, brave to hope for the best. I'm no coward.

badawg44 writes:

just dropping by, checking out the scene in k-town. what's up fellas? sounds like Clawson is doing a good job... just hope that new O don't mature enough against the dawgs. we're planning on blackin'-out the orange in A-town... can't wait.


tenncorncob writes:

As a former college offensive lineman on Div. III level, this is not that hard to do. Our offensive line did it all the time and it worked well for us. Best I remember, it kept us out of ruts as well. Blowin' off the ball is blowin' off the ball, regardless of which side of the line you're on......plus, what offensive lineman doesn't like to be "strong" or "quick"? ....lol...

rabidvol1998 writes:

Best line in a long-time. Ditto. Go Vols.

Posted by vol_in_lsu_land on April 17, 2008 at 10:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Easy and lazy to expect the worst, brave to hope for the best. I'm no coward.

volwalk writes:

This could be two great hires in a row for Fulmer. Say what will but Cutcliff was exactly what we needed after the 05 debacle and now this Clawson brings new blood, new ideas and hopefully more wins and a BCS bowl birth.


utclassof1992 writes:

Feed em double fritters for both sides of the line.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

used to be called 'strong side' and 'weak side', w/strong side being wherever the tight end lined up.

I actually think it's harder for d-linemen to change sides. You usually develop a forearm shiver/throw that's hard to change over.

jimr07 writes:

Ashley--what would we do without your insightful comment. I am so glad you do that.

BOASoldier writes:

badawg44, they may want to keep the Red jerseys on to hide the blood spilled when Smokey rips into em'. Just tell the receivers the goon squad is coming to Neyland Stadium South.

txvolsfan writes:

I like the attitude of Clawson and I like the fact that he seems to keep an open mind about the offense. I know it is a noval concept to get the ball in your playmakers hands!!!

beachvol1 writes:

Negatives, and more negatives...some of you call yourself Vols fans but got my doubts...guess your glass is always half empty, huh??? How about getting excited for once in your life about the new offense that is being installed and see what materializes...guarantee if the Vols start rolling up 30 pts plus a game, you negative vols will jump right on the band wagon..how about getting on now and stay on or go pull for Bama or the Gators...your either in or out...now, I feel a lot better....

VOLinNC writes:

Does anybody know what time the O&W game comes on sunday and what channel?

BOASoldier writes:

a little off the subject but as far as OOC scheduling goes ... I just spoke with the assistant coach of the UTC Mocs and they play Oklahoma U for their first game and FSU for their third game. Sad on the other two schools schedule ... it would be awesome to see UTC whoop up on em

Greyback_Vol writes:

Seems like this system will work better than what UT has been doing since, what, time began? I'm really excited to see the first new blood being pumped into the offense in a long, long time. Anyone headed to the O & W game tomorrow? I'll be there.

99gator writes:


i thought your confidence was built on the fact that florida stinks based on their spring game performance.

in all seriousness, hawaii and miami will end up being the typical warmups.

hawaii has no brennan and no june jones (and you saw the sugar bowl). hawaii has to make a flight across 50 times zones (exaggeration).

and from the miami people i know (and they are reliable), miami will be god awful. it is possible they are even worse than last year......when they did not go bowling.

but, even if all that is false. florida has a bye week before tenn.

waterskier3#226480 writes:

30K at most for the O/W game at best.. students are pissed, casual fans no interest because we've been stale, die hard will show up because of new OC to see what the offense looks like. if more than that people really are optimistic for 08...

GO VOLS!!!! personally we have to beat fla and ala this year period.... no excusing on those two... others we can debate :)

CoverOrange writes:

sjt, remember the last time we played UAB as a warm up? Remember playing Air Force as a warm up two years ago?

Strategy question (rhetorical in nature): can not the DL also switch sides, especially after the OL lines up, to get favorable match ups? Not quite sure of the advangtage here.

jimr07 writes:

General_Fritter--once again, your sarcasm is noticed. Not particularly welcome, but..........

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Gen Fritter, it is heartening to read your 9:59 post as I stir a 55 gallon drum of kool-aid, sir.

You are a beacon to questioning souls who should just lay aside any doubts, any doubts, I tell you and go forth into battle. Our fortress has no gaps. Our mended armor will protect us from all assaults. Our new flag will have a picture of Don Quixote.

I need to go sit down a spell......

jimr07 writes:

Would you anti-Fulmerites rather see us go 5-6 to get rid of him or possibly go to a BCS game. We have not played one down and you are already sending the moving van. Man, show some optimism.

99gator writes:


this isn't homerism here....i will do some research as to what happens when hawaii plays east of the mississippi river.....but, it isn't good.

and miami went 5-7 last year. they got beat 48-0 by virginia in miami in the final game played at the orange bowl.

i have no problem admitting things i am concerned about.....but hawaii and miami cause me no concern.

in addition.....meyer will see it (playing miami) as an opportunity to bury a recruiting competitor.

BOASoldier writes:

These two are for you General:

Down the Field
(Here's to Old Tennessee)
Here's to old Tennessee
Never we'll sever
We pledge our loyalty
Forever and ever
Backing our football team
Faltering never
Cheer and fight with all of your might
For Tennessee.

[edit] Fight Vols Fight
Fight, Vols fight with all your might,
For the Orange and White
Never falter, never yield
As we march on down the field
Keep Marching!

Let the Spirit of the Hill
Every Vol with courage fill
Your loyalty means our victory
So fight, Vols, fight!

VOLinNC writes:

What time and channel does the O&W game come on Sunday?

BOASoldier writes:

CSS 7:30

BOASoldier writes:

I'm proud to be a gator hater... the blood is boiling the nice PC speak between rival schools is wearing thin and the true colors of all college football fans is coming to the surface.

Kill the DAWGS!!! the black jerseys are being donned, but not for a victory dance but to mourn the demise of yet another valiant attempt by the puppies.

There is blood in the water (and its spewing from the Crimson Faithful) ... no more "how do you do sir" "I would like your take on the upcoming season" "would you happen to have any Grey poupon" the kind banter amongst rivals will be replaced with inbreeding, backwoods, off color jokes.



99gator writes:


c'mon. seriously. i will go to an impartial source.

vegas....has miami as a 60-1 shot of winning the national title. the same as notre dame who went 3-9 last year.

miami lost three home games last season. they also lost 3 games by 30 or more points.

that's the best part about the game. it looks like a good opponent based on reputation.....but, miami is god awful at this particular point in time.


99gator writes:


about the arrogance.....

in all seriousness....i will put up the florida schedule.....you let me know which games florida will not be favored to win.

bye week
@ tennessee
@ arkansas
bye week
georgia (jax,fl)
@ vanderbilt
south carolina
the citadel
@ florida state

unless there are injuries.....georgia is the only game that florida may not be favored to win.

99gator writes:


florida will beat miami by 2 touchdowns......at least. i will give you or anyone else those points if you want them.

BOASoldier writes:

LSU, GEORGIA, will be favored over the gators unless something happens between now and then. But I see 5 possible losses. Possible mind you ... not exactly probable

99gator writes:


lsu will not be favored in gainesville.

out of curiosity.....who are your five....


BOASoldier writes:

SC and Missippi... just cause I hate the gators... no real reason

thesavageorange writes:

99gator, Interesting odds.Seems like the folks in Vegas are giving the Gators a good shot.Michigan 7-1????????Looks like USC is the odds on, once again.

In all honesty I think UF should go undefeated.The only 2 teams I give a shot at beating them are UT, and UGA.Everyone else that's any count will have to roll through the swamp.

Prediction:Florida vs USC for the NC.
Man I hate USC!They are like the Patriots of college football.

99gator writes:


while i would be ecstatic if that happened.....and the national title game is in miami.....i am not there yet.

i have a feeling, if tebow stays, that 2009 would be more likely.

i think the defense for florida will be better.....but, not enough to keep from slipping up somewhere(s) along the way.

thesavageorange writes:

99, Looks like you feel about UF as I do UT.2009 is the yr I think UT has the best shot at an outright SEC championship.Now 99, I know you don't make the schedule ,but UF's 09' out of conference schedule is plain silly.

Charleston Southern
Florida International
Florida State

99gator writes:


florida has operated under the theory that the SEC schedule plus fsu is enough. no need to add to it.

fsu being diminished makes the schedule look worse.

Troy is not that bad a team.....in the memphis and southern miss caliber.

i did not know charleston southern played football. and florida international should stop playing football.
both are pathetic.

i have complained about this for years.....as a ticket holder. i understand not wanting to play someone great.....but, bring in a cellar dwellar from a bcs conference. bring in indiana, iowa state, or a school like that.

you will still win big and it looks a lot better than charleston southern.

GoVol writes:

What's up with Arkansas at 30-1 odds at winning the BCS. Seems much better than what I had in mind?

99gator writes:


the last time florida beat miami was 1985.

since then, florida lost to miami in 1986, 1987, the 2000 (1/01) sugar bowl, 2002, and 2003.

'86, miami played for the title. 87, miami won the title. 2000 and 2002 were in the midst of a 20+ game miami winning streak overall.

this is not that kind of miami team.

in addition, your tenn credentials are safe. no need to pick florida to lose to vandy to prove you are a vol fan.

does florida stand a chance against the citadel or is that game troublesome too?

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

the backup QB for Hawaii (now the starter) is VERY good. Brennan shoulda been benched in the first half against UGA, but of course they wouldn't do that.

UH won't beat you, just saying to be ready on D.

I will warn you now: the gators will face an EXTREMELY focused and angry UT team at Knoxville. We may not win, but I think every Gator that touches the field will know he has been in a game.

UF embarrassed UT last year, the only team to really do that. Bana and Cal won, but the games where contestes for varying amounts of time.

If you read my posts, you know I don't do much chest-pounding about our teams. I would NOT like to be a gator in Neyland this year.

UTvols12342000 writes:

I truly believe that whichever team out of the two comes away 3-0 after the TN-FL game will finish the regular season undefeated.

I have no stats or facts to back this up, but I really think our defense is going to be championship level. If that is so, can Dave Clawson can score just slightly above average? If he does, we can run the table after a win over florida. Not saying we will win in Atlanta tho....pff.

And i do believe the SEC champion has to make it out of knoxville unscathed this year.

Go Big Orange from Holland

vtvol#210290 writes:

Gator99, even without Colt Brennan, Hawaii will provide a good season opening test for your gators. The UF pass rush should be every bit as devastating as the one the Warriors experienced against UGA in the Sugar Bowl but I don't think that your boys have the numbers in the defensive backfield to adequately cover all of UH's receivers while in their five wide sets. On top of that, this year's starter for Hawaii has much more mobility than Brennan did. The QB draw will be something that Florida will have to be very mindful. UF should win by 3 TDs but Hawaii will make it interesting until halftime. If nothing, it will show Coach Clawson and Tennessee on film on where to exploit UF's secondary with their spread sets.

99gator writes:


whoa, whoa, whoa.....

i did not say anything about tenn. i said miami and hawaii would not be a problem.

i still don't think they will be. but, i have been wrong before.

99gator writes:

once again, i apologize for gatorfan and mcbrim

can't help some people.

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