For the last decade, Tennessee’s offensive line, with the exception of All-American Trey Smith, has been, well, subpar to say the least. And it’s because Tennessee forgot who they were.
In the days of Phillip Fulmer, and even the lone season under Lane Kiffin to some extent, Tennessee imposed their will at the line of scrimmage. The Vols were known as a smashmouth football team. Teams knew that they had to stop the run when facing Tennessee, because a power run game was just a part of who the Vols were.
But after Kiffin bolted for USC in January of 2010, the running game would change for the worse and take a severe step back. No more would there be a downhill, truly physical running game for Tennessee.
Instead, the finesse, zone blocking scheme was introduced. A scheme that really should be reserved for the PAC-12, BIG 12, and whatever other conference you want to throw out there. It’s a scheme that should NEVER be extensively used in the SEC (or the BIG TEN for that matter).
You can thank Derek Dooley for starting that zone blocking scheme mess in 2012. And you also thank him for not recruiting an offensive lineman in the 2012 class, which is much to blame for the abysmal 2014 line under Butch Jones.
But Jones certainly didn’t help matters either. While he did finish in the Top 40 in rushing in both 2015 and 2016, he was otherwise ineffective in his other seasons. most notably in 2017 when he finished 116th nationally. He also managed to take an all-NFL offensive line in 2013, and finish 53rd overall on the ground.
However, things are finally starting to get back to the good ol’ Tennessee way. Physical and hitting you right in your mouth, and daring you do something about it.
And it’s all thanks to Jeremy Pruitt.
It appears that Pruitt will be running a version of the hard-nosed offense that so many Vol fans became accustomed to watching over the years. In order to infiltrate this offense though, you need a mean, nasty offensive line that prides itself on road grading and pancaking.
Enter Brandon Kennedy.
Kennedy, who was able to break out of the chains of Nick Saban in recent days, has elected to take his last two years of eligibility to Rocky Top and add beef to an already physical o-lineman in guard Trey Smith.
In the game of football, especially at the collegiate level, youth can prove to be a huge obstacle for a football team. The only way to counter this issue is to have an experienced and talented offensive line.
Kennedy certainly provides just that. He is currently a redshirt sophomore who stands at 6-foot-3, 315 lbs and was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. And presumably, Nick Saban doesn’t recruit you as an offensive lineman unless you possess the ability to straight up maul someone. So, that means Kennedy can probably straight up maul someone.
He only played in seven games in 2016 as a reserve offensive lineman, and missed most of 2017 with a leg injury. However, he is fully healthy again and served as Alabama’s backup center during spring ball.
And, if you’re a backup at Alabama, chances are you could be a starter at most other schools in America.
So, in 2018, with Kennedy joining the likes of Smith, and the often overlooked (and often injured) Chance Hall, this offensive line could be much more of a force than its been in past seasons. And hopefully, soon every opponent will once again be forced to take Tennessee seriously in the trenches.
Brandon Kennedy Should Bring the Boom in the Trenches that UT Has Been Missing was originally published in Orange & White Report on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.