KNOXVILLE. Tenn. – The Tennessee offensive line did not allow a sack in the season opening game against Georgia Tech and paved the way for running back John Kelly to run for 128 yards.
A lot can be improved upon, though, heading into the Week 2 matchup against Indiana State on Saturday.
Redshirt senior Brett Kendrick said at a media availability Wednesday the offensive line showed a big weakness in one specific area.
“I look at small stuff,” Kendrick said. “One thing that I saw that was glaring in the film to me was our hand usage and hand violence.”
Kendrick said an improvement in hand placement would limit the opportunities for holding calls in the future.
Coach Butch Jones said Wednesday he liked how the unit had improved throughout the fall and how they performed in the season opener.
“I did think the overall level of the pad level was much better,” Jones said. “I think that showed. If you just looked at the ability to run the football, we were very efficient.
“We still have to get much more physical, both on the offensive and defensive lines. There were things that showed great progress up front.”
The offensive line has already experienced shifting of players. The Vols missed starting tackles Chance Hall (knee injury) and Drew Richmond (suspension) Week 1, though Richmond will return to the lineup this week.
Continuity on the offensive line is important, even if it’s not always possible.
“It’s a tough league and injuries happen,” Kendrick said. “I think that is why we were mainly shuffled around last season, so many guys had injuries. Obviously, I’d like to sit here and tell you we’re going to have no injuries this year and we’ll keep the same five out there, but in the SEC that could be a little unrealistic.
“I think there will be some shuffling around, but we are going to try and get five and stay with them as long as possible so we can gel.”
The Vols offensive line had a good showing against Georgia Tech, especially in the second half. The unit will need to keep improving, though, because SEC play begins Week 3 on the road against Florida.