Tennessee offensive line without Darrell Wright

Marvin Westwestwords

Large size Bru McCoy, a linebacker in receivers’ disguise, tough as old shoe leather, says Tennessee’s up-tempo offense sure is fun for wideouts. It offers so many opportunities.

Bru is no burner but he thinks there is happiness waiting in 50 or so receptions, hundreds of yards gained and no telling how many touchdowns. There will be thunderous applause and there could be chants of “Bru, Bru, Bru.”

Television reporters will think that is boo, boo, boo – but it won’t be unless the game is in Florida.

Tennessee running backs also like Josh Heupel’s fast break. They understand the quarterback gets most of the attention but they’ve been told the successful rushing attack is what really makes the whole show go.

Even though the position functions as a committee, Jaylen Wright envisions the season when he might reach 1,000 yards. He made it to 875 and 10 touchdowns in 2022.

Tennessee offensive linemen don’t see Tennessee football at break-neck speed from the same perspective as Bru and Jaylen. When you are 6-6 and 310, playing very, very fast is a bit more of a challenge with less time for celebration whoopees.

Linemen get all sweaty and grass-stained and sometimes bruised. They do agree winning is wonderful and they recognize one advantage toward that goal. The Vols practice at this mad pace. Opponents probably don’t.

It is correct to expect Tennessee’s offensive line to contribute a fair share this fall toward team success. The line will look different. There is no Darrell Wright at right tackle. There aren’t many in college football.

The Chicago Bears now have this one, four-year contract, $20.9 million including a signing bonus of $12.2 mil. That windfall was based in no small part on what Tennessee line coach Glen Elarbee was able to refine. He did not ask for a percentage. Wright thought he helped the coach get a raise.

The Bears noted that Wright kept pace in the fastest operating offense in the free world. It averaged 2.94 plays per minute.

The Volunteers’ new line has several old pieces. Senior center Cooper Mays is the logical leader. Critics have tried to convince him that he is too small (a mere 6-3 and 296) but he ignores them and goes right on doing his job.

“He enjoys it. Every single day, the guy has juice, has energy,” said Elarbee.

Mays is first with the football, the triggerman. He reads defensive alignments and calls out adjustments. He is almost flawless at snapping the ball. After that, he finds other work. It has been said that he always locates someone to block and blocks with violence and intensity.

Does that make Cooper Mays sound special? He is.

Guard Jerome Carvin went pro. It’s too early to be absolutely certain but super senior Ollie Lane (sixth season, from Gibbs High) looks to be the left guard. Senior Javontez Spraggins returns at right guard. Redshirt junior Andrej Karic, 6-5 and 310, transfer gem after 26 games at Texas, is a strong contender. Redshirt senior Jackson Lampley is available.

Could be there is a genuine tournament going on at tackle – three or four for two starting jobs. Heupel says he is looking for “consistent championship play.”

Miami transfer John Campbell, experienced left tackle, and Gerald Mincey, left tackle last season, looked like first teamers coming out of spring. Jeremiah Crawford is more than capable. He started six games when Mincey was injured. Dayne Davis has played a lot in the past two seasons.

Pro scouts say Campbell and Mincey are NFL prospects. Pro scouts have not said either is the next Darrell Wright. Campbell did start 12 games for the Hurricanes last season.

“The reality is we’re going to need all those guys,” Heupel said.

Center Addison Nichols leads the younger linemen. Where sophomore Larry Johnson, redshirt freshmen Brian Grant, Mo Clipper and Masai Reddick fit is to be determined.

Tennessee has seven senior offensive linemen. The line is almost always a developmental project. There is a message in this: Shamurad UmarovVysen Lang and Ayden Bussell are part of the long-range plan.

Commitments for 2024? Big win two ways is offensive tackle Bennett Warren from Fort Bend Christian Academy in Sugar Land, Texas. Michigan finished runner-up.

Warren is No. 5 in the country at his position. He is really big – as in 6-7½ and 330. Best in Texas? I don’t know how Elarbee does it.

William Satterwhite (four stars), Max Anderson (four stars), Gage Ginther and Jesse Perry make the future appear more favorable than the distant past.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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