Adams: Optimism is heating up for O-line

John Adams

First fall practice goes well despite heat

As an experienced, trained sports journalist, I'm capable of detecting the most subtle changes between one preseason football camp and another.

One example: Last year's Tennessee preseason camp was open to the media.

This year's isn't - at least, not for the most part.

Another example: Last year's preseason camp was hot. This one is hotter. A lot hotter.

The media got to watch the first 45 minutes of Wednesday's opening practice, which is sufficient time to evaluate a team's warm-up skills. Suffice to say, it rarely has been so easy to warm up for a practice.

Players seemed to be lifting their helmets more so than usual, perhaps just to make sure their heads hadn't melted in the 97-degree heat. How hot was it?

It was Louisiana hot, according to South Louisiana native Jarrod Shaw.

The senior offensive guard declared the first practice of this preseason as the hottest ever.

"It was ridiculous," said Shaw, who had developed a cramp in his right leg by the end of practice.

But don't get the wrong idea. I didn't use my allotted 45 minutes of viewing time to determine it was hot.

I also noticed that quarterbacks Matt Simms and Tyler Bray were throwing accurately. Of course, against no rush and no coverage, anything less than accuracy from the quarterbacks would be downright terrifying to Vols fans.

Another observation: If Bray has gained weight since the spring, professional models would like to know his secret for hiding it. The thickest thing about him is his hair.

But when the ball leaves the hand of UT's skinniest freshman since Peyton Manning, you forget how thin he is. As you saw in the spring game, he can fling it.

The offensive line didn't go unnoticed, either - perhaps because it was the last unit to leave the field, and also because it didn't leave quietly. "One-two-three, O-line pride," they shout in unison.

I just counted myself, all the way to 11. That's how many paragraphs I have gone without mentioning what a problem UT's inexperienced offensive line will be. That's a personal record for any column with so much as a cursory reference to the Vols' 2010 offense.

The problem loomed less large on the hottest day of the summer.

Just a day earlier, coach Derek Dooley spoke positively about his starting line of center Cody Pope, guards JerQuari Schofield and Shaw, and tackles Dallas Thomas and Ja'Wuan James. Talent isn't the problem, he emphasized. It's strictly a matter of how fast they come together as a unit.

"I feel good about the talent of the starting five," he reiterated Wednesday. "I feel good about their willingness, their attitude. I feel good about their being a good line. But you can't be a good line without experience.

"How much experience do we need before we're good? That, I don't know."

Based on their comments, they won't fail for lack of unity. To a man, they tell you how close-knit they are. For a unit in which cohesiveness is so critical, that's progress.

Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was preaching "O-line pride," in the spring, but Shaw said the unit didn't appreciate the significance until this summer.

"The whole group just bonded," Shaw said. "Bonding with those guys, I feel way more confident in the unit. I know what Cody is going to do. I know what JerQuari is going to do."

Pope continued the togetherness theme.

"We all hang out together," he said. "We eat together. It's really cool because we didn't get to know each other like this a couple of years ago. Now, we're really coming together."

They look OK individually, too.

The starters average almost 6-foot-6, and 312 pounds. Schofield, at 6-6, 331, looks much stouter than he did last preseason. Shaw has lost weight but looks stronger, and has improved his bench press to 420 pounds.

They have grown stronger and closer. Now, in the heat of August, their goal is to form a stronger bond.

"That's what camp is for," Shaw said. "Getting our plays down, getting our techniques down.

"And keep on building on that togetherness."

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 38

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

I have a good feeling about this unit. They possess much more talent than last years squad and last years squad didn't have much more experience. I don't expect to win the Fl. and Ala. game, but by the 4th game, we will have a very sound football team.

If the offensive line can jell as well as last years team, we could actually produce a 7 win season. If they don't jell, look for 5 wins.

orangecountyvols writes:

Adams' headline word was OPTIMISM?

That sure doesn't sound like him. Calling himself a trained, professional sports journalist does sound like himself though.

Anyway, the article might even be a good one. Just don't get excited too much about anything he, Hooker, or Climer write. BTW, what happened to Hooker?

Bigger_Al writes:

The problem is that no other town paper in the country would hire John Adams as an editor or a writer. And the KNS can't fire "Tuscaloosa John" because of age discrimination or some photos he has of his supervisors. So, the Vol Nation has to keep reading his septic sprouting when it becomes available.

redskinvol1 writes:

Overlooked and under the radar.Prime position to surprise and dominate.Together you stand!GBO!

DannyVol writes:

Since when has 6'6" and 312 lbs looked just 'OK' on an offensive line?

TommyJack writes:

Pretty fair piece, Adams.

RunningWithTheVols writes:

Let's move on from the Adams, Fulmer, and Kiffin bashing, people!!!

Bash on the Gators, Tide, and Bulldogs.

VolFanNC writes:

This OL is definitely going to be better than last year. This an area we have been lacking in talent for a while. I think we finally have the talent and in 2011 and 2012 should be even better.

Hounddog writes:

Since the opinion of most on here is the OL is talented...all they will require fan support until they gel.

If they come together at least by mid-season we may win the games we are supposed to win, KY-Vandy, Memphis, etc. And suprise somebody along the way. Hounddog.

BigOrangeFreak writes:

in response to RunningWithTheVols:

Let's move on from the Adams, Fulmer, and Kiffin bashing, people!!!

Bash on the Gators, Tide, and Bulldogs.

Amen, to that. GO BIG ORANGE! 30 days!

OTPVol writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

I have a good feeling about this unit. They possess much more talent than last years squad and last years squad didn't have much more experience. I don't expect to win the Fl. and Ala. game, but by the 4th game, we will have a very sound football team.

If the offensive line can jell as well as last years team, we could actually produce a 7 win season. If they don't jell, look for 5 wins.

With all due respect, I still expect to win 'em all. GBO!!!!

Tennacious writes:

In the SEC, its all about the line of scrimmage. Week in and week out the other teams are big, strong and athletic. Teams that can't compete up front, get beat down as the season goes along. This is one of the reasons the Vols own such a good record vs. Whiney-bilt and the Mildcats.

As the offensive and defensive lines go, so go the season.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

Adams – did you just write a somewhat positive article about UT?!? Wow… I’m still pinching myself to see if I’m awake.

tnsportsman writes:

The OL first unit looks great with size, speed weight and talent! The OL bonding as one is huge and that doesn't even include James Stone and the other freshman! The OL will be the biggest good surprise of the season!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

volsnationalchamps writes:

Thanks John great post. OL this year could be a great surprise. There is talent there, like every position out there. Just so much inexperience. Get through September and get some game time experience and lets get rolling. I still don't expect lots of wins but if the line can block we have playmakers at rb and wr. We could get 7 wins, I'm still leaning toward 5 - 6 but its possible. Best thing we are getting experience for these guys for next yr. Good things are coming, we are on way back to top!!! GO VOLS

Hayezb writes:

"As an experienced, trained sports journalist, I'm capable of detecting the most subtle changes between one preseason football camp and another."

Hahahahaha.

mikec1000000 writes:

I think the starting five will do well. The issue all along has been depth. The real questions will rise if and when someone goes down to injury or how well the backups respond when the starting five need a breather. Im optimistic that this group will start out well. I'm raising a glass and hoping they stay healthy long enough for the younger guys to grow up fast in the SEC.

NoMoreWooAfterGoodOleRockyTop writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

I have a good feeling about this unit. They possess much more talent than last years squad and last years squad didn't have much more experience. I don't expect to win the Fl. and Ala. game, but by the 4th game, we will have a very sound football team.

If the offensive line can jell as well as last years team, we could actually produce a 7 win season. If they don't jell, look for 5 wins.

What in the world would give anybody a "good feeling" about this O-line other than blind loyalty? 2 of 5 likely starters haven't played a single down of NCAA football and the rest hardly have any PT at all b/c they couldn't beat out walk-ons last year. Paper tigers are no reason to get a woody over these guys. The embarrassment of a 3rd losing season in the last 6 years will be easier to take if you will just accept the reality that Clapoppatamus sank this program and it will be several more years before we will be able to compete for a Division title again.

volsfan74 writes:

It is nice to hear/ read something positive from the media about the 2010 team. But it amazes how John Adams and others continue to take jabs at CDD and the staff, on the Sports Page today JA keeps stating that the media only got to watch 45 minutes of practice so it's hard to evaluate the team in such a short time frame! Guess what John I'm relying on your evaluation of this team I'm trusting the staff. JA and the rest of the media needs to quit whining that they are not getting the "special treatment" they want, Heather Harrington complains about it constantly as well!

whistlinwingman writes:

in response to volsfan74:

It is nice to hear/ read something positive from the media about the 2010 team. But it amazes how John Adams and others continue to take jabs at CDD and the staff, on the Sports Page today JA keeps stating that the media only got to watch 45 minutes of practice so it's hard to evaluate the team in such a short time frame! Guess what John I'm relying on your evaluation of this team I'm trusting the staff. JA and the rest of the media needs to quit whining that they are not getting the "special treatment" they want, Heather Harrington complains about it constantly as well!

I heard him say that too on the animal. He can't write a positive article with out jabs. Did some gainesville or tuscaloosa bunch buy KNS and employ some of these tool-sheds.

CrankE writes:

Okay, who's the ghostwriter?

I've got optimism that Adams can still be fired and crawl back to Bobby Bouchezville, Loosiana How's that for accentuate the positive?

smoky50 writes:

in response to Driving_Ms_Dooley:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's just August and I got my ankles taped already!!! GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

volsfan74 writes:

in response to whistlinwingman:

I heard him say that too on the animal. He can't write a positive article with out jabs. Did some gainesville or tuscaloosa bunch buy KNS and employ some of these tool-sheds.

It's like JA has a hate for UT Sports, if thats the case why would you want to be the Sports Editor of a newspaper in Knoxville? Out of all the writers I get more info from Austin Ward than any of the others. Dave Hooker was a UT grad and he no longer works for KNS.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to mikec1000000:

I think the starting five will do well. The issue all along has been depth. The real questions will rise if and when someone goes down to injury or how well the backups respond when the starting five need a breather. Im optimistic that this group will start out well. I'm raising a glass and hoping they stay healthy long enough for the younger guys to grow up fast in the SEC.

I agree;I think this line has good size and potential but this is SEC football and injuries on the OL are a part of going up against some of the nastiest DLineman in football; Hopefully we stay healthy..When they run into the buzzsaw of Oregon and Fla in 5 or 6 short weeks from now; they will get experience QUICK

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to tnsportsman:

The OL first unit looks great with size, speed weight and talent! The OL bonding as one is huge and that doesn't even include James Stone and the other freshman! The OL will be the biggest good surprise of the season!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

I can't seem to remember, but who are the other freshman OL on the team??

CarthageVol writes:

I didn't take the time to read all previous entries, but our problem with the O-line is probably not these 5 as much as it is the 5 behind them. They will come along, but its going to take time, and there will be some losses during that time. We will get there though. Go Vols!!!!

oskie_score writes:

Hey, if CDD and CHH like what (o-line development) they see that's good by me.

Averaging 6'6" 312lbs that's NFL size, nice, but they too will need quickness and strength to hold their own in this Conference.

300+ pounders should be pushing the 500+ (bench) & 650+ (squat) envelop.

Whether OL or DL it's about controlling the line of scrimmage...size, strength, & quickness.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CarthageVol:

I didn't take the time to read all previous entries, but our problem with the O-line is probably not these 5 as much as it is the 5 behind them. They will come along, but its going to take time, and there will be some losses during that time. We will get there though. Go Vols!!!!

With the exception of a couple of positions--RB and WR--that is the problem up and down the roster. As I posted on another article, our top 22 to 26 players are probably as good as most in the league but we will be in trouble if/when our starters get beat up or worn down. I'm a bit more optimistic than I was, say, at the start of spring practice--after all, I AM a fan--but I know we have a long road ahead of us to be relevant year in and year out among the powers of the college football world. Getting antsy for the season to start! GBO!!!

Mobbdeep4life writes:

in response to ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog:

I can't seem to remember, but who are the other freshman OL on the team??

Zach Fulton, Marquis Pair, James Stone and Ja' Wuan James are the only ones I can think of. There are a few redshirt Freshmen as well.
I hear Fulton is no small fry himself.

Ayres_Hall writes:

We won a few games last year with under-sized walk-ons and a redshirt Freshman on the OL.

Colliervol writes:

Cautiously sounding a little better than I thought. Consensus on Knoxville radio today from people who watched practice was that the line looks bigger and more athletic than last year. Only thing lacking is experience and fortunately, they get to go against a pretty good group of DE's and a couple of decent DT's in camp. They say that James and Schofield are mountains that can move.

Just praying for minimal injuries to the starters. Although they said the Fulton kid looks like an SEC upperclassman already with his size and ability and James Stone shows a ton of promise already.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to NoMoreWooAfterGoodOleRockyTop:

What in the world would give anybody a "good feeling" about this O-line other than blind loyalty? 2 of 5 likely starters haven't played a single down of NCAA football and the rest hardly have any PT at all b/c they couldn't beat out walk-ons last year. Paper tigers are no reason to get a woody over these guys. The embarrassment of a 3rd losing season in the last 6 years will be easier to take if you will just accept the reality that Clapoppatamus sank this program and it will be several more years before we will be able to compete for a Division title again.

Thomas turned down Ala., FSU, SC. and played in 13 games last yr. Schofield is 6'6 and 315 with as much experience as Sullins had last yr. and same with Cody Pope, a 6'6 290 lb. junior. Jarrod Shaw is a fifth yr. senior with some experience and will be fine.

Freshmen backups will include Fulton, Hood, James (who will most likely start), Pair, James Stone, Revis, Phillips. The cupboard is not exactly bare. Like I said, after the 4th game, these freshmen will be experienced and ready to compete in the SEC. 7-5 is a real possibility.

Southland writes:

calm down folks Adams gets some of you all worked up which is what the paper wants. Lets support the team when it looks real bleak by the fifth game and we start to make a turn and go 6-6 or 7-5 and then win a bowl game and build from there. We are down and lets not forget that. Lets be fair to Dooley. he inherited a mess. I want instant success but it aint gonna happen. Give the man a time. give the team some time and we will be back and as competitive as ever. We live in day in which we want instant gratification. Building a football program that has been in a mess for three years and going down longer than that will take some time. I will be with them all the way through the bad times until we get back to the good times. Always love the Vols

RandRams writes:

Trial by fire...by mid-schedule, barring injury, the o-line will be confident and hitting it's stride.
Wouldn't it be nice if Tennessee could shuffle FL, LSU, GA, & AL, w/ Memphis, Mississippi, Vandy, & Kentucky?? ;-)

RandRams writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

We won a few games last year with under-sized walk-ons and a redshirt Freshman on the OL.

Yep, makes ya' think/wonder how many more win's we may have had OR for that matter losses that might have been avoided if the o-line had had more (size, strength & quickness) talent, doesn't it??

Continuity & consistency.

BreatheUT writes:

I said this in another article but folks this is a big change from the last several years when our o-line has struggled. I'm not saying they will be better because only time will tell but I like what Coach Dooley has done. He has told these guys who the starters are right now and what positions they will play. Guys will have to be beat out at this point. Coach Fulmer led teams in the last few years were still moving linemen around in camp from left to right, guard to tackle, center to guard and these guys didn't get a chance to spend the preseason bonding and never got a chance to gel because of the uncertainty. A lot of times it wasn't settled on what positions or which side guys would play until the week before the first game. A big mistake in my opinion.

Go Big Orange!

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

The problem is that no other town paper in the country would hire John Adams as an editor or a writer. And the KNS can't fire "Tuscaloosa John" because of age discrimination or some photos he has of his supervisors. So, the Vol Nation has to keep reading his septic sprouting when it becomes available.

No, Al, I REALLY don't think you HAVE to read anything you don't want to read. So my advice to you, if it's going to give you ulcers, is don't read anything John Adams writes. Then we won't HAVE to read your whining posts.

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

walt2010 writes:

Those are some big boys. Weren't the Sullins brothers around 240 each? 240 to 290 is a big jump - bigger to 312. We might surprise some people this year.

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