Dan Fleser: Tennessee Line Features 12 Players At 300 Pounds And Up

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - by Dan Fleser

KNOXVILLE – A weight scale flashed more than a number to Tennessee’s Marcus Tatum following a preseason football practice earlier this month. The reading of 318 amounted to peace of mind and validation for the Vols’ offensive tackle.

He was down just two pounds. It was water weight lost, he figured, rather than an erosion of the 20-plus pounds he added during the off-season lifting weights and wielding a knife and fork with great purpose.

“Now it feels like it’s different,” Tatum said. “I used to have to eat so much more. Now I’m just eating normally.”

Tatum reflects the offensive line’s expanding dimensions by way of personal initiative, recruiting or some combination of both. Now the group looks different as well with 12 linemen listed at 300 pounds or more. The growing trend seemingly points them in a positive direction in advance of the Aug. 31 season opener against Georgia State .

Nathan Niehaus, on the hand, was added to the ranks of former O-linemen last week. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound redshirt junior, who started six games at right guard last season, left the team and the reason was hauntingly familiar. Buried in personal statement that lauded virtually all of the coaches and support staff, Niehaus announced that he was retiring from the game because of “sustained injuries and the overlapping wear on my body.”

Niehaus became the seventh offensive lineman to leave the program for health-related issues during the past two years. Freshman Melvin McBride announced this summer that he was retiring because of “health problems.” He had been on campus less than two weeks.

Niehaus and McBride joined the ranks of Chance Hall, Jack Jones, Tanner Antonutti, Devante Brooks and Eric Crosby. That’s a lot of depth and a lot of potential out the door.

Furthermore, the playing status of junior lineman Trey Smith continues to be in question because of a blood clot condition that sidelined him last season.

This unfortunate storyline lingers over the present like a dark cloud that stubbornly refuses to lift.

As the tug of war over the offensive line’s true course continues, the Vols savor the depth they do have. Redshirt senior center Brandon Kennedy, a transfer from Alabama, is back after being sidelined with a knee injury last season. Freshmen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright are competing for significant roles.

Attrition notwithstanding, Tatum says the situation is better than before.

“I just love depth,” he said. “People don’t understand what it’s like to practice and play a game with like 10 people. … bodies are worn down. Now we have (more) people to help contribute to the team. It feels much better.”

Fellow lineman Ryan Johnson said the group also has benefitted from a second consecutive summer in the same off-season conditioning program.

“You can really tell a lot of guys have changed,” he said. “You can see it in their body. … They’ve cut fat. They’ve gained muscle.”

Tatum, for one, feels like a completely different lineman.

 

“The whole outlook of the game changes,” he said. “I actually feel like I can try different things instead of before I had to do a jump set to stop (defenders). Now I feel I can switch things up a little more.”

The difference must feel like a weight off his shoulders.

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com

 

  


UTC Women Place Four At Sewanee Early Season Track Invitational

UTC Men Host Tennessee Wesleyan Sunday

Covenant's Riggs Named NCAA DIII Second Team All-American


The Chattanooga women’s track team opened the indoor season Friday night at the Sewanee Early Season Invitational with four top place finishes. Makenzie Jones took first in the women’s 3000 ... (click for more)

The Chattanooga Mocs are ready for some home cooking. It’s been a long 5-game road swing. The last time the Mocs saw the Roundhouse faithful, they treated the masses to a thrashing of South Alabama. ... (click for more)

Covenant men's soccer senior midfielder Jesse Riggs was named to the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division III All-America second team, announced the organization on Thursday night. Riggs ... (click for more)


Sports

UTC Women Place Four At Sewanee Early Season Track Invitational

The Chattanooga women’s track team opened the indoor season Friday night at the Sewanee Early Season Invitational with four top place finishes. Makenzie Jones took first in the women’s 3000 meter with a time of 10:25.96 and was followed by freshman Lesley Green in her first collegiate indoor race. She was second with a time of 10:46.16. Jada Hale too first in her first ... (click for more)

UTC Men Host Tennessee Wesleyan Sunday

The Chattanooga Mocs are ready for some home cooking. It’s been a long 5-game road swing. The last time the Mocs saw the Roundhouse faithful, they treated the masses to a thrashing of South Alabama. The next viewing is Sunday at 1 p.m. Tough losses at Florida State and Western Carolina book-ended a strong fight at a nationally-ranked opponent before the squad capturing the ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Man, 36, Shot On Shawnee Trail Thursday Night

A man, 36, was shot on Shawnee Trail Thursday night. At approximately 9:32 p.m., Chattanooga Police were called to a local hospital after a person arrived with injuries from a gunshot wound. Upon arrival, police spoke with the person suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound who arrived at hospital via personal vehicle. The victim said he was involved in a ... (click for more)

Inner City Youth Who Had $22 An Hour Job At Gestamp Now Headed To Federal Prison

An inner city youth who once had a $22 per hour job with the Gestamp automotive supply firm is now headed to federal prison. Shimel Clifton Knowell, 20, was sentenced by Judge Travis McDonough to serve two years. He earlier had a term of 13 months and one day after a guilty plea to gun possession while under the influence of drugs. However, he was given the higher sentence ... (click for more)

Opinion

A Better Plan Is Needed For Quarry Golf Course At Mountain Creek

With regard to the ongoing saga of the old Quarry golf course and its proposed development, I reject the proposed plan endorsed by the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy (Chattanoogan - Breaking News 11/30/2019) and believe a better outcome can be achieved. There is a middle ground that involves all R-1 construction including preserving the tree, greenspace, streams and ponds. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Hot dog for every December and here we go! We at The Saturday Funnies relish in each December because it is during this time many of the best stories are borne. From Thanksgiving to Christmas each year is a “busy street” and over these holidays, which we dutifully celebrate because of a very real and ever-revealing Christ-child, and not just from the teacher’s advancement, we will ... (click for more)