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Tennessee Football spring practice preview: Vols OL

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SEC games are won in the trenches. Tennessee Football coach Josh Heupel is aware – and that’s why he focused on improving the Vols’ offensive line following an up and down season in 2023.

The Vols sought help through the transfer portal after having multiple offensive lineman opt to use an extra year of eligibility in 2024.

Heupel and his staff hope an improved offensive line will help elevate Tennessee Football on offense this fall. One key to offensive line success: finding consistency.

UT’s O-line will work on that when spring practice begins as they prepare for the 2024 season.

BIG STORY

Tennessee hopes its mix of veteran experience combined with young talent will develop into one of the SEC’s top offensive line groups.

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The biggest story is the return of offensive tackle John Campbell Jr., center Cooper Mays and right guard Javontez Spraggins.

There was a lot of concern about Tennessee’s 2024 offensive line during the 2023 season.

A common question: How is Tennessee going to replace all of those departing seniors?

That question was answered easily when three senior starters decided to play one more season at Tennessee.

Mays will serve as a leader both on UT’s O-line and in the locker room.

Spraggins has played a ton of football for the Vols, although Tennessee will be careful with him this spring following the knee injury that ended his 2023 season early.

Campbell will likely slide to the right side of the line with newcomer Lance Heard, a transfer from LSU, expected to take the left tackle spot.

Tennessee’s offensive line has a few questions, which we’ll get to in a moment.

But the biggest story for the spring will be Tennessee’s veterans helping lead a developing offensive line.

SPRING STAR

Heard makes a lot of sense here.

He was a five-star prospect in the 2023 class when he signed with LSU.

He’d still be in Baton Rouge if the Tigers didn’t have two starters at tackle returning from last season.

ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic called Heard a “massive get” for Tennessee on his Cube Show podcast.

Heard will change Tennessee’s offense because he’ll give Heupel more confidence in what kinds of plays he can call.

That was a concern at times last season.

With Heard, Tennessee Football should have more protection for its quarterback and a mean lineman who’s ready to help the Vols run the ball.

BIG QUESTION

What will Tennessee do at left guard?

Four of the five starting positions appear set heading into the spring.

At left guard, Andrej Karic and Jackson Lampley return to compete for the fifth starting spot.

Karic transferred from Texas a year ago and started multiple games before missing the final seven games due to injury.

Can he build off last season to earn the starting spot?

Lampley returned to Tennessee Football for a sixth season.

Most of his experience has come as a backup and playing on special teams.

But Lampley should at least push Karic and compete with young players as the Vols try to build depth on the offensive line.

Tennessee could also explore the transfer portal following the spring.

But for now, the competition will begin with a couple of veterans.

ULTIMATE GOAL

Tennessee will try to solidify its starting five and build depth for the upcoming season.

Tennessee has plenty of offensive linemen to compete this spring.

How many will prove they’re ready to play?

This spring will be important for young players to show what they’re made of.

Second-year linemen Vysen Lang and Sham Umarov have created the most buzz from the 2023 class.

How about Ayden Bussell and Trevor Duncan?

Freshmen Max Anderson, Gage Ginther and William Satterwhite are on campus.

Will any of those players make some noise?

Tennessee should exit the spring feeling good about its starting offensive linemen thanks to the return of several seniors.

Let’s see what the entire offensive line looks like after a full spring of work.

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