Big enough

Big enough

Tennessee's 2005 offensive line weighed an average of 335 pounds per man, moved ponderously, blocked poorly and took an enormous amount of heat on all counts.

That scenario isn't likely to be repeated under Lane Kiffin's watch. The Vols' new head coach likes his linemen lean, fast and athletic. That's why two lanky redshirt freshmen – undersized by major college standards – have him smiling broadly this spring.

With first-team guard Vladimir Richard sidelined by a concussion, Tennessee has had to restructure its offensive line this week. As a result, rookies Dallas Thomas and Aaron Douglas have been getting a lot of practice repetitions at tackle.

Thomas is a 6-5, 268-pounder from Baton Rouge, La., Douglas a 6-6, 280-pounder from Maryville.

"Dallas is really athletic, really can move," Kiffin said this week. "He'll fit the system. He has a ways to go schematically but we think he's got a really good future."

As for Douglas, he's essentially cast from the same mold.

"Very similar," Kiffin said. "He's a great athlete that can run, and he's bigger than Dallas is."

Despite a smaller frame, Thomas has an advantage over Douglas in that he practiced at tackle last fall. Douglas, conversely, was a tight end until this spring. Thus, he's facing a learning curve.

"It's just the transition," Kiffin said. "For him to come in to tackle (from tight end) is a hard thing to do, but we think he's going to do extremely well."

In addition to providing more work for reserves such as Thomas and Douglas, Richard's injury has forced Kiffin to try some of his linemen at different spots.

"We moved some guys around ... had to move some rights to lefts," the head man said. "Whenever you do that, that causes some issues but it's good to work it out now because that's what happens in games sometimes."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Vols hold a major scrimmage today at 11:30 in Neyland Stadium. We'll have several articles on the event posted this afternoon.

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