Disclaimer: All of this is being written in February, with three more weeks of winter left, according to Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog). But it was 72° here today, and that’s spring enough for me.
No spring has meant as much to Tennesee fans in the last decade as this one will. A new coach, a new staff, and some new players have Vol fans excited. It’s all about new beginnings in Knoxville, and spring pratice represents the first chapter in what we hope will be a splendid story.
The super-staff hasn’t wasted any time either, as they’ve already started the cleaning process by shaping up a roster with some rather large, gaping holes.
The first thing that comes to mind is the offensive line. Things don’t look too bad for 2009, with four seniors projected to start, but once ’09 is over, things start looking pretty bleak. This offseason alone, the Vols lost three offensive lineman (Ramon Foster, Ramone Johnson, and Preston Bailey). With this in mind, Lane Kiffin has decided to shift Aaron Douglas, one of the top signees in the 2008 class, from tight end to offensive tackle.
While it might seem like a bit of a stretch for a tight end to be able to successfully move over to the offensive line, Douglas actually fits the mold of the type of offensive tackle Kiffin favored while at
Southern Cal: lean and athletic. Not only that, but Douglas has the frame (6’7, 280+) and the pedigree to be successful at the tackle position. Douglas’ father, David, was a lineman for the Vols back in the mid-1980s.
Douglas doesn’t seem taken aback by the sudden change of address, but rather, he looks to be welcoming the chance to make a contribution to a Tennessee team in dire need of depth on the offensive line.
The next biggest concern on the Volunteer depth chart is the lack of height at the wide receiver position. The Vols were able to bring in quite a few receivers in this class (five, to be exact), but none of these wideouts has the kind of size Kiffin desires in his wide receivers. On top of that, Kiffin realizes that he likely can’t count on any of these receivers to make much of an immediate impact (besides maybe the speedster that is Nu’Keese Richardson). But even if Richardson does make an impact, it will likely be at the slot position, leaving the Vols without an accomplished big man.
To try and fix this problem, the decision was made by Kiffin & Co. to move
Brandon Warren from the tight end position, where he was a freshman All-American at Florida State back in 2006, to wide receiver. Although Warren is still only 6’2, he’s still a big dude who will hopefully be able to get physical with some of the smaller corners in the SEC. His quick feet, good change of direction, and nice hands will likely make the transition easy, and hopefully he’ll give the Vols that big man that has often thrived under Kiffin’s offense.
With Warren and Douglas changing positions, that leaves the Vols with senior Brad Cottam and junior Luke Stocker as the primary options at the tight end position. And, if we’re lucky, maybe Orson Charles’ name will be in the mix, come spring pratice.