John Raoux/Associated Press
Replacing offensive linemen is always a major concern.
Replacing an entire offensive line is suicide, especially in a line-of-scrimmage league like the SEC.
Yet, that's exactly the unenviable proposition facing Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney in 2014. All five starters will be plying their trade in the NFL next year, and the Vols are left trying to piece together a front five.
On one hand, the old guard never quite lived up to their massive expectations, so it isn't like they're irreplaceable. On the other, there are few proven commodities left on UT's roster.
Said GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required):
In short, Tennessee is going to have to throw some of these big kids into the pool and see which ones can swim. That doesn't mean this group can't be good, but the challenge is very real. Replacing all five starters up front is a gargantuan task, and one that will require patience from all sides involved. Do not be fooled for a second into thinking otherwise.
The interior looks fairly firm, with center Mack Crowder and guard Marcus Jackson having started games in their college careers. Other super subs like junior Kyler Kerbyson and sophomore Dylan Wiesman have played extensively and will battle for the other guard spot.
Freshman Ray Raulerson may be athletic enough to provide depth as well.
The tackle situation is much more dicey for the Vols. This spring, at least two dependable starters must emerge from a group of players who've never played an SEC down.
Junior college transfer Dontavius Blair is already on campus and the favorite to fill Tiny Richardson's sizable shows at left tackle. True freshman Coleman Thomas will battle redshirt freshmen Austin Sanders and Brett Kendrick, as well as seniors Marques Pair and former walk-on Jacob Gilliam for the right tackle spot.
If UT can't find a serviceable rotation in that group, Kerbyson can play tackle if needed.
It's a scary situation for Mahoney, but there are plenty of able bodies. Experience will be at a premium, but they'll have to grow up quickly for the Vols to take any big leaps forward in 2014.
With most everybody on campus, besides two-way linemen Jashon Robertson and Charles Mosley who could factor into the OL equation, there is no more important developmental area than the line this spring.