A crucial battle.
Tennessee returns four out of five starters up front this season, only losing Cade Mays from the original group. With Mays vacating his right tackle spot, former five-star recruit Darnell Wright will kick from left to right this fall. That obviously moves the lone opening on the offensive line to the left tackle position, and the battle is raging.
Former walk-on Dayne Davis, Florida transfer Gerald Mincey and former JUCO product Jeremiah Crawford are the three options in the race — one that we don’t expect to end anytime soon.
“Man, they’re all doing well, competing,” Tennessee offensive line coach Glen Elarbee said. “It was the first day of pads yesterday. I thought they all, including those three, kind of melted a little bit, just with the heat, and came back today and were flying around. Doing well, man. To say who’s where or what, I couldn’t do that for you, if that’s where that sucker’s heading. But they’re competing really, really well.”
Davis and Crawford each saw significant playing time down the stretch in 2021, subbing for an injured Cade Mays. The competition started right then, and it continued in the spring, with a new face in the picture. Gerald Mincey, a former three-star prospect, joined Tennessee during the winter and tossed his hat into the battle.
So what’s the timeframe for sorting the whole thing out?
“Typically, you hope you have a direction after the first scrimmage, and then you kind of solidify after the second scrimmage,” Elarbee said. “Some years, you’re fortunate that it happens before then if there’s a bunch of returning guys. But hopefully, by the first scrimmage, have an idea. Then, for sure by the second scrimmage, probably need to know and give those guys a chance to play as many snaps together as they can.”
Tennessee just finished up week one of camp, looking to build off of a rock solid 7-6 season in year one under Josh Heupel. With Hendon Hooker and Cedric Tillman returning, expectations are high. However, this left tackle position is a big question mark. The good news here is that the Volunteers have options, which hasn’t always been the case over the past several seasons.
Competitive depth is a big asset to have, and Heupel and Elarbee have it in this battle. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next three weeks, and if it stays that way after the opener against Ball State.