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Tennessee football isn’t producing top Vol OL players under coach Josh Heupel

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Tennessee’s fanbase doesn’t seem very patient when it comes to five-star offensive tackle David Sanders and coach Josh Heupel’s ability to land top-flight players in the trenches.

“I can believe this,” a message read on the Off The Hook Sports YouTube channel. “Heupel can stack up the 5-star QB’s and the occasional WR and edge rusher. But he struggles with 5-stars (offensive linemen) when he goes up against the Georgias, Alabamas and Ohio States.”

That’s a lot to unpack. Let’s begin with this. Heupel and most coaches struggle when recruiting against Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State. Those aren’t easy recruiting battles to win. Second, Heupel’s ability to recruit quarterbacks and receivers shouldn’t be chalked up to some willy nilly desire. Heupel is best at recruiting those positions because he’s best at coaching those positions or, in the case of the defensive lineman, Heupel has a coach to handle player development like defensive line coach Rodney Garner.

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Therefore, you can’t be upset with Heupel for recruiting quarterbacks as well as anyone in the nation. However, it is fair to question Heupel’s offensive line recruiting as he enters his fourth season as head coach. The Vols have had some highly touted offensive line commitments. To this point, none have truly pushed for a starting position.

There’s a fine line between really good offensive line prospects and elite offensive line prospects. Other coaches, more than Heupel, have proven they can determine the difference. Therefore, Heupel is misevaluating offensive line prospects or he’s just losing the battles he needs to win. Either situation is troubling.

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There could certainly be players that improve and show they’re ready to play at the SEC level. As far as Tennessee signees out of high school, Jackson Lampley, Vysen Lang, Umarov Shamurad, Larry Johnson III and Ayden Bussell come to mind as players that are pushing to contribute, but haven’t quite gotten to that point just yet. They had better. The Vols have to practically rebuild their entire offensive line after this season.

So is there cause for concern? Absolutely. The Vols could see its current underclassmen offensive linemen blossom or begin recruiting at a higher pace when it comes to high school prospects. Whatever the remedy, Tennessee has an underlying illness that will have to be addressed for the Vols to be championship worthy one day.

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