Offensive linemen point to chemistry for success

Offensive linemen point to chemistry

Grounds crew members Bryan Ogle, right, and Kenny Deaderick prepare the end-zone checkerboard at Neyland Stadium on Wednesday afternoon for the season-opening game against Montana on Saturday. The 5-foot squares, 60 orange and 60 white, take two days to complete and are repainted every week during the football season.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, KNS/2011

Grounds crew members Bryan Ogle, right, and Kenny Deaderick prepare the end-zone checkerboard at Neyland Stadium on Wednesday afternoon for the season-opening game against Montana on Saturday. The 5-foot squares, 60 orange and 60 white, take two days to complete and are repainted every week during the football season.

Dooley brings on the noise for the Vols

Chemistry is a mental thing.

It's trust between the guard positioned just inside the tackle, some unspoken communication at the line of scrimmage and a deep bond off the field.

Or maybe chemistry is a physical thing.

It's the way those players move as one on game day, the techniques honed by pounding on each other after practice and the way that friendship can allow a group of teammates to push every member through workouts.

The Tennessee offensive linemen are always quick to point to chemistry as the reason they appear poised for a breakout season together, though putting a finger on what exactly that means isn't easy for any of them. Regardless of what it is or how the Vols have found it, the five guys settling into starting roles are clearly counting on it having a big impact when they open up the season against Montana at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: pay-per-view, 6 p.m.).

"The biggest thing with the chemistry is building trust," left guard Alex Bullard said. "In some of our protections, we have to know if we have help or not. That's something we need to know, because Dallas (Thomas) needs to trust that I'm going to be there.

"If he doesn't trust that I'm going to be there, that's going to screw up the whole thing. That's the biggest thing, having a feel for each other, trusting each other, knowing how everybody communicates."

Of the five pieces the Vols have turned into one whole, Bullard was the final addition after getting reps all over the line thanks to his versatility. But ultimately UT couldn't justify keeping the transfer from Notre Dame off the field and needed to settle on a rotation to start developing some cohesion across the line, which finding the perfect spot for Bullard allowed it to do for most of training camp leading into preparation for the Grizzlies.

It obviously helped that UT had four returning starters in place, with Ja'Wuan James and Zach Fulton holding down the right side, James Stone at center and Thomas at the critical left tackle position.

And while teamwork and communication are important at any position, perhaps nothing requires as much singular focus or unified effort as playing in the trenches — which made finding a fifth starter early in camp critical in the unscientific search for chemistry.

"That's a big deal, stability-wise, knowing those are the five guys and we're set in there to start the season," James said. "We're building trust in there. Alex can do that with Dallas since Dallas has gone through a lot of left guards on that side and has tried to build chemistry with all of them.

"I mean, I have a good chemistry with Zach and I trust Zach on the help-side. We know in games, we're not going to let a defensive end penetrate on each other. At the same time, when I'm helping Zach, he needs to know in the back of his mind that he doesn't have to worry about me and he can focus on his job. Same for me, I can focus on my job knowing Zach will be there for me."

On the other side of Fulton, the same is true for Stone.

Stone then needs to have the same level of confidence in Bullard, who is then leaning on Thomas.

The rest of the offense is counting on all those guys to deliver as well, with a running game that ranked last in the SEC last year looking for bigger holes and quarterback Tyler Bray banking on the total of sacks dropping from 41 a year ago.

Starting against Montana, that progress will be easy to monitor on the stats sheet. Just how the linemen produce it might be up to a bit of interpretation.

"Me and Zach, we've been playing together for a long time now it feels like, so we're doing pretty good chemistry-wise," James said. "We make calls and stuff like that, but normally with me and Zach, sometimes we don't really have to make the calls.

"Sometimes we just say, 'You already know.' "

Like chemistry, the Vols don't need to put everything in words.

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Comments » 31

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

It's football time in Tennessee!!!!!

JSamson7 writes:

"You already know", love that last comment! I'm saying this right now for all of you UT Trolls out there like CSS, Kiffen's Spawn, or whoever... If our OL gels & we beat FL, UT will finish the regular season 9-3. Call me optimistic, but this group holds the key to unleashing our offensive potential & keeping the D off of the field.

nocleats writes:

ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK, TRAMPLE THE WEAK! HURDLE THE DEAD!

kcbigorngX writes:

in response to nocleats:

ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK, TRAMPLE THE WEAK! HURDLE THE DEAD!

BURN THE VILLAGES! RAVAGE THEIR WOMEN! EAT ALL THE CORN DOGS!

kcbigorngX writes:

Speaking of corn dogs, I was just listening to a replay of LSU call-in show.

One of the callers asked Les Miles about the possibility of Jordan Jefferson suiting up as the Tigers' punter.

I'm not sure ol' Lesticals even got it.

TennesseeJett writes:

I believe in the Vols and CDD..If this OL can gel together and open up some holes for Poole and Lane..which will allow Brey to do his thing down field.. *WE WILL WIN the SEC*

kazoo writes:

I've read a lot of preseason blather over the years about how good the O-Line was going to be--and most of the time they turned out to be not so good. We'll see. I'm less concerned about the unit's chemistry than whether or not these guys, individually, can knock opposing defenders on their butts. It's all about hard-nosed blocking, plain and simple.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say same headline for Tide but that because they been cooking and selling meth.
Bones never lie.

ayansane#1401422 writes:

One last thing I wanna hear them say: "We gonna come out and move the line of scrimmage, we gonna hit people in the mouth, we gonna get down and nasty!". I hope they are saying that, behind the scenes.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

L.T.-Dallas Thomas
L.G.-Alex Bullard
C.-James Stone
R.G-Zach Fulton
R.T.Juwan James

Me likes...me likes a lot!!!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to JSamson7:

"You already know", love that last comment! I'm saying this right now for all of you UT Trolls out there like CSS, Kiffen's Spawn, or whoever... If our OL gels & we beat FL, UT will finish the regular season 9-3. Call me optimistic, but this group holds the key to unleashing our offensive potential & keeping the D off of the field.

Yeah! When I read, "You already know" I felt a chill go up my spine! The OL (and DL for that matter) will be the key if we are to get to 9-3 like you predict! I'm not as bold, but I hope you turn out to be a prophet! GBO!

VolGrad writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say same headline for Tide but that because they been cooking and selling meth.
Bones never lie.

Nice jab, there. You seem to have a knack for schmack.

Go Vols!!!

MidTennVol writes:

Austin Ward, you have come a very long way in the past year or so. Outstanding, instructive, insightful piece. Well done.

tovolny writes:

All feels good, doesn'it? But we should wait until the doodles or up and walking before we count them. Since we have already thrown away all the bad eggs, we can take what we have, forget those that have flown the coop, and waddle beak first into the Purina squares. Start pecking hard boys, it is not going to be easy. Everyone knows that Rocky (top) Island Roosters are Su-spurier to those fat Gamecocks. URR URR RE URR!!!! Let's rule this roost! GBO

cloudodust writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bog lizards finish 4th in the SEC East. The season will be capped off when UGA thumps youse guys in JAX...

DC_your_mom_called writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

W_D_D on a Gator message board: Hey guys, guess what! I was over on GoVols again today busting chops!

Fans on Gator board: OK. Hey, why don't you head back over there for awhile.

W_D_D: Awesome idea! I'll report back in awhile and let you know all the zingers I fired off over there. You're gonna love it!

Fans on Gator board: Whatever.

secten#238516 writes:

you know, i remember in past years, oh the offensive line is going to be so great and it never did really happen, well i hope with these guys that they will make a believer out of me ITS FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!

Bigger_Al writes:

I think the line will be adequate this season, and special the next two years. These guys need birthdays and more off season workouts to really turn into the beasts that they will become. The improvement of Dallas Thomas between his Sophomore and Junior years is significant, and the four Sophomore starters will see the same improvement next year.

Pompey writes:

in response to kazoo:

I've read a lot of preseason blather over the years about how good the O-Line was going to be--and most of the time they turned out to be not so good. We'll see. I'm less concerned about the unit's chemistry than whether or not these guys, individually, can knock opposing defenders on their butts. It's all about hard-nosed blocking, plain and simple.

..."I'm less concerned about the unit's chemistry"....you have just admitted that you don't understand football......

Volunatic writes:

in response to DC_your_mom_called:

W_D_D on a Gator message board: Hey guys, guess what! I was over on GoVols again today busting chops!

Fans on Gator board: OK. Hey, why don't you head back over there for awhile.

W_D_D: Awesome idea! I'll report back in awhile and let you know all the zingers I fired off over there. You're gonna love it!

Fans on Gator board: Whatever.

Good stuff right there.
(Good posting moniker, too.)

traderjoe writes:

What's the size of our boys?

Digital5000 writes:

in response to traderjoe:

What's the size of our boys?

Very Big

-Enjoy Yoself

Mobbdeep4life writes:

Can't stress the importance of a cohesive O-line enough. I have to believe the run game will improve over last year and it starts this weekend.
Saturday is almost here. GBO!!!!!!!

Brillovol writes:

in response to FirstAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Next year nothing. It'll be the best THIS year!

And, TraderJoe, I was curious myself so I went to the media guide. According to the guide, the average size is 315.4 lbs with a low of 306 and a high of 330.

Gmoney58 writes:

in response to traderjoe:

What's the size of our boys?

Average: 6-4 315lb

Gmoney58 writes:

in response to Brillovol:

Next year nothing. It'll be the best THIS year!

And, TraderJoe, I was curious myself so I went to the media guide. According to the guide, the average size is 315.4 lbs with a low of 306 and a high of 330.

Beat me to it

volfanlostnbama writes:

being reported in BHM sports radio TN offers AL asst. ad Dave Hart the TN AD job, any confirmation out there on Rocky Top?

hueypilot writes:

Going against the front 7's in the SEC, they better be good. Noticing how the Pouncey's jumped right into starting rotation in the NFL as rookies. I'm hoping to see some push on 3rd and 2 and an easy pickup for Poole. Been a long time since we could count on moving the chains on the ground on 3rd and short.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to hueypilot:

Going against the front 7's in the SEC, they better be good. Noticing how the Pouncey's jumped right into starting rotation in the NFL as rookies. I'm hoping to see some push on 3rd and 2 and an easy pickup for Poole. Been a long time since we could count on moving the chains on the ground on 3rd and short.

I'm right there with you, hueypilot. I'm sick of seeing passes on 3rd and short. Also, being able to run effectively will make the passing game that much better. All that, of course, leads to more points on the board and a big "W" at the end of the game. GBO!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to illinoisvolfan:

I'm right there with you, hueypilot. I'm sick of seeing passes on 3rd and short. Also, being able to run effectively will make the passing game that much better. All that, of course, leads to more points on the board and a big "W" at the end of the game. GBO!!

Aren't we all! The offense is going to have to keep the ball and keep scoring to take the pressure off our thin, green defense, at least in the early going. We'll all know soon enough. Can't wait! Just two more days until FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!

allvol32 writes:

When TN had it's best offensive lines if they had a lead in the second half of a game they could eat huge chunks of clock with long 12-15 play drives usually denying opponents any real chance at getting back into the game.

And who can forget the offensive line's performance and Travis Henry taking it to Arkansas after the Clint Stoerner fumble. The fumble was obviously huge but UT still had to drive 43 yards to get to the endzone. Most teams would have to start passing this late in the game with that far to go but the offense just bulldozed the AR defense all the way down to the end zone with out throwing a single pass. Except for the dive into the end zone at the end I don't think that a single play on that drive went for less than about 8 yards. That was power football and it's high time TN had some more of that.

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