KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Since inserting sophomores Jack Jones and Chance Hall into the starting lineup, Tennessee’s offensive line has displayed some newfound stability and improvement in recent weeks.
Settling on a five-man unit of LT Brett Kendrick, LG Jashon Robertson, C Dylan Wiesman, RG Jones and RT Chance Hall has allowed the Volunteers offense to develop chemistry, cohesion and confidence. Pass protection has especially been better and there’s a nastiness to the unit that wasn’t there to start the season.
“We’re settling into our spots,” junior left tackle Brett Kendrick said Monday.
“Getting Chance back has been huge for us. He’s a great player. Dylan has settled in for us at center. Jack has come on and been huge. … We are growing together and learning how to play together.”
In victories over SEC East foes Florida and Georgia, head coach Butch Jones believes quarterback Josh Dobbs has thrived with “a more stable pocket,” allowing Tennessee’s dual-threat talent enough time to make plays with his arm or his legs. Against those two opponents, Dobbs racked up nine total touchdowns.
“We’ve been able to drop back, pass and throw,” Jones said.
“I think the individuals up front are gaining a lot of confidence and they’re working very hard.”
Despite having to replace just one starter from last season’s unit, Tennessee’s offensive line struggled to open the year. Hall was sidelined with a knee injury, and the constant shuffling caused confusion up front.
But after allowing 20 tackles for loss and 7 sacks the first three games of the season, the offensive line has yielded just 3 sacks over the past two games.
“You always hear about the negative stuff and not the positive. That’s just how it is, and we embrace that,” Jones said.
“I do feel like we’ve gotten better each week. That’s what you expect and want. I feel like we’re coming together. As far as the rough start, there were some things we needed to fix. But I think the way we’re playing now, we’re really starting to hit our stride.”
The newly improved unit will be “greatly challenged” Saturday at Texas A&M, as the No. 8 Aggies have one of the best pass rushing duos in the county.
Ends Myles Garrett, a future Top 5 NFL Draft pick, and Daeshon Hall have combined for 6 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2016.
“I know the O-line will come out ready to play because if we want to be successful, we definitely have to execute up front going up against a great D-line this week,” Dobbs said.