Tennessee has noticeable lack of commitments from linemen

John Moorehouse • Feb 4, 2007 at 11:36 AM

It's an outdated relic from pop culture past, and its originator is long dead, but look at Tennessee's current recruiting class and one question comes to mind.

"Where's the beef?"

With about 48 hours to go until national signing day, there is a noticeable paucity of offensive and defensive linemen in the Volunteers' incoming crop of football signees.

Currently the Vols have commitments from two defensive ends and three defensive tackles, but just two verbal pledges from offensive linemen. One of those in the latter category, Cody Pope, is a holdover from the 2006 class who failed to gain entry from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Given the criticisms Tennessee faced for struggles running the football and defending the run, this is a legitimate concern heading into the 2007 campaign.

The Vols must replace star offensive tackle Arron Sears and reliable guard David Ligon. Anthony Parker, who started every regular-season game at the other guard, is coming off major knee surgery.

Redshirt freshman Josh McNeil appears to be a mainstay at center and UT feels good about the progress of some of its young linemen - especially Jacques McClendon, Chris Scott and Vladimir Richard. Yet depth is always a point of emphasis on the offensive line.

A lack of depth on the defensive line nearly spoiled Tennessee's season when tackle Justin Harrell tore a bicep tendon. Due to the failure of youngsters like Demonte Bolden and Dan Williams to assert themselves, Turk McBride moved to tackle on a full-time basis.

As it is, Tennessee tallied only 17 sacks - the lowest total during John Chavis' tenure as defensive coordinator.

The Vols also had their worst year defending the run during Chavis' time in Knoxville. Such numbers indicate that Tennessee simply did not have enough quality players on the defensive front, and based on the numbers of the Vols' current class, it could be argued that potential depth and quality issues lurk next season as well.

• With the non-binding pledges by Texas tandem Lennon Creer and Darnius Moore, Tennessee has added to its collection of verbally committed recruits. The Volunteers' coaches wouldn't mind adding one or two more - especially nearby talent Rae Sykes.

But with letters of intent due Wednesday, Tennessee has another priority: to keep the commitments it has in the fold.

The Vols and every other program in the country will spend these final days trying to keep the commitments they have - and maybe steal one or two away from the competition as the deadline nears.

UT knows both sides of the eleventh-hour game.

In 2005, the Vols plucked tailback Montario Hardesty away from North Carolina. At the time Hardesty was one of the banner recruits in the Tar Heels' class.

Last year, the Vols experienced the other side of the coin, when verbal commitment Michael Goggans spurned Tennessee and signed with Auburn. Goggans was one of the banner commitments in what was a subpar class based on recruiting services' ratings.

One of the Tennessee commitments in jeopardy this year might be four-star defensive tackle Rolando Melancon. He planned to visit Alabama's campus and new Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban this past weekend.

Meanwhile, the Vols continue to compete with Florida State for the services of Alcoa defensive end Sykes.

Right now, the Vols have 30 commitments, if you count Gerald Williams - the defensive end prospect who has been trying to academically qualify for three years now. Williams has enrolled in junior college, and while he still could end up on campus this summer, chances seem slim.

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