KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It turns out the Tennessee football team didn’t get through last Saturday’s 41-0 loss to Georgia healthy after all.
Redshirt sophomore Venzell Boulware didn’t play in the loss to the Bulldogs, and on Monday he announced on Twitter he was leaving the football program.
The Vols are coming off a 41-0 home loss to Georgia — the worst shutout defeat in Neyland Stadium history — and there has been speculation about the team’s psyche in the locker room.
Last year’s Tennessee team had two players leave: Receiver Preston Williams quit after the Georgia game after being benched, and tailback Jalen Hurd left the team after getting pulled out of the South Carolina game in favor of John Kelly.
Boulware does not have the star power that either Williams or Hurd represented, but he was considered an up-and-coming lineman who might develop into a regular starter next season.
Boulware made his first start of this season in the Vols’ 17-13 win over UMass. The offensive line struggled greatly in that game, however, and Tennessee shifted its starting offensive line once again before the Georgia game.
Not only did Boulware not start against the Bulldogs, but he also did not play.
Boulware, who came to the Vols as a 3-star prospect from Union City, Ga., was projected to compete with junior Jack Jones for the starting left guard position.
Jones has also struggled, however, so Tennessee moved fifth-year senior Brett Kendrick from right tackle to left guard to solidify the interior offensive line.
Redshirt sophomore Drew Richmond started at left tackle, and sophomore Marcus Tatum started at right tackle against Georgia’s celebrated defensive front.
Boulware represents the third offensive lineman lost for the season, as projected starting right tackle Chance Hall underwent knee surgery at the start of fall camp, and incoming freshman K’Rohjn Calbert suffered a knee injury in fall camp and underwent surgery.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Johnson figures to move into the offensive line rotation with Boulware no longer a part of the team.
Tennessee’s offensive line is one of the deeper position groups, though the Vols will lose two senior starters after this season (center Jashon Robertson and Kendrick), along with backup center Coleman Thomas.
Vols coach Butch Jones hinted there could be some attrition after the Vols’ 41-0 loss to Georgia on Saturday.
“We’re going to find out who the true leaders are, and we’re going to find out who the true competitors are,” Jones said. “We’re 3-2 with a lot of football left to be played, and we’re going to find out what we’re made of each and every day moving forward.”
Kendrick, one of the local players from Knoxville and a leader of the team, said the Vols’ offensive line assumes blame for the offensive struggles.
“We had too much pressure on Quinten [Dormady] and [Jarrett Guarantano] all night,” Kendrick said. “That falls back on us. Anytime the offense isn’t moving the ball, we are the people to blame up front. So, I’ll take this one on me and the rest of the group, it’s the offensive line’s fault.”
The Vols’ offensive line has allowed five sacks this season, tied for 12th (fewest) in the nation.