Tennessee's offensive line is officially off the hook. It's no longer the Vols' area of greatest concern.
And don't even think about putting "quarterbacks" at the top of your worry list, either. They're all still standing, aren't they?
That's more than you can say for the middle of the defensive line. The hole there is now cavernous.
And all it took was the loss of one player, which underscores how flimsy the position was to begin with. When starting tackle Marlon Walls went down with an Achilles tendon injury Saturday, a concern became a crisis.
How crucial was the loss?
UT is so concerned about the position that it moved offensive lineman Victor Thomas to defense. He didn't need directions. This spring, when the offensive line was so lacking in able bodies, Thomas moved from defensive tackle to take a crack at the starting center position, eventually won by Cody Pope.
Thomas played sparingly in 12 games at defensive tackle the last two years. Compared to the rest of the tackles behind starter Montori Hughes, that makes him a hardened veteran.
Rae Sykes has played in one college game. At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he's also undersized for an SEC defensive tackle. Arthur Jeffery has the size (6-3, 294) but hasn't played football since 2007. He missed his senior season in high school with a knee injury and was redshirted last year.
Steven Fowlkes is listed as the third tackle behind Walls. A converted defensive end, he's about 20 pounds lighter than Sykes, according to the UT media guide.
At the end of spring practice, coach Derek Dooley bemoaned the lack of size at defensive tackle. It's not just that he had bigger guys in the middle of his defense at Louisiana Tech. As a former assistant coach at LSU, he also knows how such a vulnerability can be exploited in the SEC.
The vulnerability could be exacerbated by UT's schedule. Its first four SEC games are against Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. All four have the means to capitalize on the Vols' defensive weakness.
Florida might run a spread offense, but its team strength is an offensive line which includes four returning starters and is anchored by preseason All-America center Mike Pouncey.
LSU renewed its commitment to the running game in the spring, and coach Les Miles seemed pleased with the results. The Tigers might lack experience at running back, but there's depth and potential with 235-pound tailback Stevan Ridley; Richard Murphy, more of a breakaway threat; and redshirt freshman Michael Ford, who bench presses 420 pounds.
A week later, UT will face Georgia, which has the SEC's most experienced offensive line, led by All-America candidate Clint Boling. The Bulldogs' top two running backs, Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, who finished strong last season, also return.
Then comes Alabama with Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram; backup Trent Richardson, who also made All-SEC first team this preseason; and another stout offensive line.
All four of those teams might as well put their offensive game plan for UT on the Internet. It will be about as subtle and deceptive as a jackhammer.
You can imagine the challenge facing Hughes, who has All-SEC potential. He will become a magnet for blockers. The loss of Walls will cause problems for UT's linebackers as well since they rely on the defensive front as a protective shield of sorts. A weaker front means the safeties will have to take on more blockers, too.
It also means if you're still worried most about the offensive line, you're behind the times.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.