KNOXVILLE — There was plenty of lowlights last season for the University of Tennessee football program, and that's why there's a new coaching staff. But it's not all bad news for Butch Jones and Co. as they prepare to start spring practice. Here are three good things for the Volunteers:
1. The offensive line
It's pretty easy to spot a strength on Tennessee's offense for 2013, and it's the big guys up front. The group's credentials: four seniors, 123 combined career starts and a likely NFL first-round draft pick at left tackle.
Tackle Ja'Wuan James and guard Zach Fulton remained entrenched on the right side of the line, James Stone is locked in at center and rising junior Antonio "Tiny" Richardson is back for his second (and likely last) season at left tackle. The coaches must replace Dallas Thomas, but Marcus Jackson and Alex Bullard were nonstarters who played very regularly last season. It'll be an important spring for the Vols to develop younger players for 2014, when the line must reload.
With an impressive combination of experience and talent, Tennessee's offensive line must be an anchor for the Vols as they transition to a new coaching staff, and if the 2012 season was any indication -- Tennessee tailbacks averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry and allowed only eight sacks in Tyler Bray's 451 passes -- the front five will be up to that challenge.