The highly touted Tennessee offensive line is legit.
Things we learned
From Jadeveon Clowney returning to form to Florida State's complete dismantling of Clemson, here are the lessons learned from the college football weekend. More ...
That's the gist of what Alabama coach Nick Saban had to say about the unit Wednesday, as the Crimson Tide prepares to host the rival Volunteers this weekend. Saban said the potential NFL talent in the group is particularly evident at the tackle positions, led by Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, who is among a deep group of Southeastern Conference left tackles being projected as potential first-round picks.
"They've got two really good tackles, probably both NFL type guys who will be high draft picks when their times comes," Saban said. "Their inside three guys play extremely well, so this is probably the best overall offensive line we've had to play against this year. They've done a good job blocking in the run game, rushing for over 200 yards a game, and they've only allowed eight sacks. This is a very, very productive group and a very efficient group."
Inside, Tennessee is led by center James Stone and guard Zach Fulton, also NFL prospects, though not as highly regarded as Richardson and James. Saturday, the Vols offensive front will face the nation's No. 8 rush defense in Alabama, which is allowing just 98 yards per game on the ground. The Crimson Tide pass defense ranks in the nation's top 10 as well, and first-year quarterback Justin Worley will need an even better performance from his line than he got in Tennessee's recent upset of South Carolina. Still, the group is playing its best football of the season right now.
"Our players are taking more pride in their level of physicality," Vols coach Butch Jones said.
Pass rusher Denzel Devall, weakside linebacker C.J. Mosley, and defensive end Ed Stinson are three of the top performers in the Alabama defensive front that will challenge Tennessee's future pros on the offensive line the most.