It didn’t take long for a former Tennessee offensive lineman to see that the Vols would be far better up front than previously thought.
If you recall, the same offensive line that is a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award, which is presented to the top offensive line in the country, was once thought to be a weakness. That certainly hasn’t been the case. Former UT offensive lineman and Vol Network sideline reporter Mike Stowell said he saw more than just glimpses of hope in September.
“When you saw how they played against Florida and then, I think, really in the game against Alabama,” Stowell said when asked when he thought that the Vols’ offensive line could be a strength.
The Bama game was surefire sign as the Vols held Will Anderson Jr., in check. Anderson is widely considered one of the best edge rushers in college football.
“I think that’s where they really kind of established themselves,” Stowell said during Off The Hook Sports. “Here’s the thing about offensive line play. To really be good, you have to play together as a unit, you’ve got to play as one, and so if you look over the last 10 or 12 years of the offensive lines at Tennessee, you’ve had a lot of injuries and those injuries, you plugged somebody in and it’s really hard to get that same mojo, feel, understanding.”
“You get to the point where you know what the other guy is thinking, you know what’s coming, you know they’re going to run a twist. I’m going to pass this guy off. He’s going to coming to me. I’m going to go attack this guy. I think that’s the thing that’s helped them.
Four of Tennessee’s five starting offensive linemen have received the nod from the SEC as offensive linemen of the week. Center Cooper Mays was the latest to receive the award following the Missouri game. Stowell said he has been impressed by all, but particularly wowed by right guard Javontez Spraggins.
“I like how he plays the game,” Stowell said. “Now, he doesn’t play the game perfect. He doesn’t have the best technique, but he’s the guy when you think about just an offensive lineman that’s going to go out there and he’s going to throw it out there. He’s going to play a little dirty, a little mean, a little nasty. That’s what I like.
That nastiness shows up most, Stowell said, when an opposing defense tries to create havoc up front with twists and stunts.
“When you’re at guard, that guy twists away from you and that means somebody’s coming. So if somebody goes away, somebody’s coming..You look and you attack what’s coming and you make whoever comes inside pay for it.
“I’ve seen him multiple times (do that) Head’s on a swivel. When you feel like I start to loop around, he instantly will turn. He will attack that defensive end coming in and when those guys are rushing, those defensive ends aren’t looking for that guard coming in.
“That defensive end doesn’t rush quite so fast the next time because he’s like ‘I just got rocked in the ribs by this big guy and he hit me rock solid, hard.’ I’m going to maybe take it easy. So I like the way the he plays the game. He plays it with intensity.”
He’s not the only one. The Vols play with intensity on their entire offensive line. That’s why they may soon be deemed the best in the country.