Redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield, a star tackle at South Aiken (S.C.) High School two years ago, is the Vols' projected starter at left guard. As a result, he'll be blocking 300-pound bull-rushing defensive tackles instead of 250-pound speed-rushing defensive ends.
"At tackle you're setting up for a guy who's pretty much sprinting off the edge," said Schofield, an imposing 6-6, 331-pounder. "At guard you've got a guy that's a little bit heavier and you've got to sit in there (and hold your ground)."
That sounds like a significant change in job descriptions but Schofield isn't worried.
"It's still football," he said with a laugh.
Another difference in playing guard for the Vols is that Schofield occasionally will be asked to pull on sweeps. This requires an explosive burst rarely found in guys his size.
"I'll be pulling sometimes," he said with a shrug. "It's not too bad. We did a lot of that stuff in high school."
Schofield is part of a 2010 line that is missing all five starters from 2009. Because of their inexperience, the blockers are viewed as the team's weakest link by many observers. Schofield says he and his mates couldn't care less about such talk.
"We just say we've got to go out and prove 'em wrong, show what we can do," he said.
The new-look line showed what it could do in the first two preseason scrimmages, generally holding its own against a cast of more experienced Vol defensive linemen.
"We're really coming along," Schofield said. "We're finding our own groove, finding what we can do."
Since none of the five first-teamers had worked as a unit previously, their work last spring was pretty ragged. They've begun to develop some cohesion since then, however.
"The big difference is just us coming together as a team," Schofield said.
"I can definitely tell a difference. We're picking up stuff we hadn't picked up before, pretty much learning the game."
Some of the credit for that must go to first-year O-line coach Harry Hiestand, fresh from a successful stint with the Chicago Bears.
"He has great dedication," Schofield said. "He brings a lot of intensity till we get our stuff done."
Based on the segments of preseason drills that were open to the media, Hiestand appears to be an ultra-focused, no-nonsense type of guy.
"Yeah, from time to time," Schofield. "But we also have fun."
Although this Vol line lacks maturity and experience, it apparently has one thing in its favor that might neutralize some shortcomings.
"We have great character," Schofield said. "We have some real good guys that want to get our work done."
Though only a redshirt freshman, Schofield has helped set a tone for the O-line with the enthusiasm and dedication he exhibits.
"He's making progress," Hiestand said. "He trained really hard, had a great summer. He got his weight down, got himself in better shape. He's allowed himself to be a better football player because of his physical conditioning and his attitude."