Senior starters Cody Douglas, Albert Toeaina and Richie Gandy have moved on. So has Rob Smith, who elected to bypass his senior season in favor of the NFL Draft. All of these departures have left Adkins with one returning starter (tackle Arron Sears), one part-time starter (center David Ligon) and a bunch of guys who have yet to make a mark at the collegiate level.
Still, Adkins is upbeat. He believes there is enough talent among returnees Ramon Foster, Anthony Parker, Eric Young, Steven Jones and Michael Frogg to warrant some optimism.
“The great thing is that all of the young guys got a little bit of playing time last year,” Adkins said recently. “Now you want to take them the next step.”
In addition to the returnees, Tennessee will be looking for help from three offensive linemen who redshirted in 2005 – center Josh McNeil, tackle Chris Scott and guard Malcom Rawls. Another lineman, sophomore center Cameron Mayo, is hoping to compete after spending his first two Vol seasons battling injuries.
“You just try to make sure the kids are progressing the way you want them to,” Adkins noted. “They made some nice progress in the off-season program but we’ve still got a long way to go. When things are live and full-speed that’s when you can really tell how much a kid knows and how willing he is to work.”
Currently on spring break, the Vols had one full-scale scrimmage and two situational scrimmages before scattering. They’ll probably scrimmage at least one more time before playing the Orange & White Game April 8. Obviously, these game-type workouts are quite revealing.
“The biggest thing is to see how they react to people across from them when you’ve got the pads on … if they don’t lose the fundamentals and techniques,” Adkins said. “Anybody can answer some questions on the board but you look at how they’re going to react under pressure.
“That’s certainly where you’ve got to prove it – on Saturdays.”