On an even more positive note, the Vol offensive line that started the last half of 2007 will return intact for 2008. Juniors Anthony Parker and Ramon Foster confirmed at a news conference earlier today that they plan to return for '08 rather than take their chances with this year's pro draft.
One Vol already announced plans to turn pro and skip his senior year. That would be junior linebacker Jerod Mayo. The 6-2, 230-pounder from Hampton, Va., led the Southeastern Conference with 140 tackles last fall.
Parker, a 6-3, 305-pounder from Jonesboro, Ga., has started 27 career games, including all 14 of 2007 at left guard. He was a consensus All-SEC pick for '07 and made a couple of All-America teams.
Ramon Foster, a 6-6, 325-pounder from Henning, has started 16 career games, including all 14 of 2007 at right tackle. He was voted UT's Most Improved Offensive Player of spring practice last April for the second time in his career.
While the two linemen are staying, Arian Foster is still deciding. He did not attend the news conference. Foster appeared to be leaning toward the pros but may be having second thoughts after hearing a persuasive pitch from new running backs coach Stan Drayton on Wednesday.
Foster rushed for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also caught 39 passes for 340 yards and averaged 39.0 yards on three kickoff returns. Should he opt for the NFL, Tennessee's veteran tailback stable will be reduced to injury-prone Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer.
Hardesty, who will be a junior in 2008, carried 89 times for 373 yards (4.2 per rush) in '07. He scored three touchdowns and had a long run of 26 yards.
Creer, who will be a sophomore in '08, carried 36 times for 214 yards (5.9 per rush) in '07. He scored one touchdown and had a long run of 38 yards.
Neither Hardesty nor Creer poses the receiving threat Foster does. Hardesty caught three passes for 25 yards last season, averaging 8.3 yards per catch. Creer caught two passes for 13 yards, an average of 6.5 per catch.
Tennessee redshirted two freshman tailbacks in 2007 – Daryl Vereen (6-0, 196) of Charlotte, N.C., and Josh Hawkins (6-0, 195) of Loudon.