Given the overwhelming lack of proven players in the Big Orange offensive and defensive lines for 2010, the Vols just might turn to Stone.
That would be freshman James Stone, who conceivably could bolster depth on both fronts in the season ahead.
With the Big Orange looking to replace eight scholarship offensive linemen from the 2009 roster, including all five starters, Stone is a virtual lock to find a spot in the O-line rotation this fall. The 6-4, 295-pound Nashvillian also may see some snaps on defense, however. Here's why:
Tennessee is strapped at defensive tackle since 2009 starters Dan Williams and Wes Brown have exhausted their eligibility. Making matters worse is the fact four more D-tackles are facing uncertain futures.
One projected 2010 starter (Marlon Walls) is suspended indefinitely and the other (Montori Hughes) appears to be a key figure in the police investigation of a July 9 bar fight that sent two men to UT Medical Center. Incoming junior college transfer John Brown also is a person of interest in the bar fight and senior Chase Nelson, already serving an academic suspension, has had his name mentioned in connection with the incident, as well.
If even two of those four players are suspended for all or part of the 2010 season Tennessee's depth at defensive tackle becomes dangerously thin. That might force Stone into a stop-gap role on the defensive front, in addition to his anticipated backup role on the offensive line.
Weighing in Stone's favor is the fact he played mostly defensive tackle as a junior at Maplewood High School, registering 52 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 8 sacks that season.
Obviously, commandeering a guy who played almost exclusively offensive tackle as a high school senior is not the ideal answer to Tennessee's depth problem at defensive tackle ... but it may be the best answer available if multiple D-tackles are penalized in connection with the July 9 incident.
Bottom line: Whether or not Stone sees action at defensive tackle in 2010, he should play enough in the Vols' depleted offensive line to be a busy guy in the months ahead.