KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — With production in the backfield and experience out wide the play of the offensive line will be important this season if Tennessee wants to reach its potential on that side of the ball. Nearly halfway through camp, the Vols are still searching for the five best players in the trenches.
“Offensively, I see guys that show promise up front, but with that position it takes all five guys playing together up front," said head coach Jeremy Pruitt on Tuesday. "An offensive line, they’ve got to play together. It only takes one of them to mess it up. One guy messes it up, the other four do it right, it makes all five of them look bad."
"We just want to be consistent because I think that's one thing that we've kind of been lacking this fall camp," said redshirt senior center Brandon Kennedy.
Kennedy started the first game of the season last year against West Virginia before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. Having the opportunity to compete again during Sunday's scrimmage was not something he took for granted.
“It was great. Just having the opportunity to be out there with my guys and being able to compete was great. It’s what I love, and I was just happy to be back out there.”
Kennedy echoed Pruitt: the offensive line is a unit and less of five individual positions.
"I would have to say it’s getting everyone on the same page. As an offensive line, one person can’t shine, it’s an entire unit, so we have to make sure we’re on the same page before every snap.”
Pruitt said there are essentially no starters decided yet on this team, besides at quarterback, and from the sound of it, the offensive line is in the same boat. It may take a while to determine who the starting five will be.
“To me, as soon as you get comfortable. Sometimes people have a hard time being at their best, so I could see as the season goes, at lots of positions, one week one guy is playing and another week a different guy is playing. Maybe we play two guys at one position, who knows. The players control that, not us."
That starting group will be incredibly important to one player in particular, the only guaranteed starter on the team, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. The redshirt junior brings up a good point.
"I think going into this camp, there has been a lot of competition and I see it every day. They are rotating ones and twos every day, and threes. We have a lot of guys that can do it. We are going to try to find the best five," said Guarantano.
When will that happen? TBD.
"I don’t know if it is going to be the day before or if it is going to be this week. I like seeing a lot of guys rotate in, I am able to communicate and compete with a lot of the guys whenever they do come to the ones. I enjoy it but going into things, I think they are going to narrow down and cut the crop down.”
Being the only player on the team with a guaranteed starting spot is new for Guarantano.
"Well, it's a first," he laughed.
He's been in pretty tight quarterback competitions each of the past two seasons. A change to the situation means a change to his approach. It's not so much competing with the quarterback next to him, but competing with the quarterback in the mirror.
"Every single day I’m trying to get better at something. I want to be the best that I can possibly be. That’s what I go into every day looking at. I don’t want to look left and right. I don’t want to look at any newspapers or articles seeing where I’m ranked. I don’t want to see that stuff. I just want to be the best player in the world and I want to be the best player in the country and that’s my everyday goal.”