Things appear to be trending in the right direction on Rocky Top heading into Year 2 of the Jeremy Pruitt era but the constant issue that has consistently plagued the program dating back to the Derek Dooley era remains an issue — the offensive line has to show signs of improvement on the field.

Tennessee has done everything it can to correct the issue, from bringing in graduate transfers, to signing elite prospects to play the position to hiring quality coaches with a proven track record of getting solid performances out of their offensive lines. But until the unit actually improves on the field, many Tennessee fans remain skeptical of the group’s potential for this season.

Now in the middle of his second training camp in Knoxville, Pruitt’s most recent comments on his offensive line didn’t inspire much confidence in the unit’s progress heading into the season.

“Both (lines of scrimmage) are just very inconsistent… Offensively, I see guys that show promise up front, but with that position it takes all five guys playing together up front. An offensive line, they’ve got to play together,” Pruitt said Monday after practice. “It only takes one of them to mess it up. One guy messes it up, the other four do it right, it makes all five of them look bad.

“Whereas on the defensive line, three of them can mess it up and one of them can really not do what he’s supposed to do, but because he’s really good, he goes and makes a play, where everybody thinks the defense is pretty good. It’s funny how those two positions are perceived.”

On the positive side, Tennessee’s linemen have apparently heard that message and understand what they must to in order to earn their spots on the team’s starting offensive line. The big offseason change for Tennessee’s offense came with the hire of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who not only knows what he’s doing game planning and calling a game, but has an extensive history coaching up offensive lines.

In recent Tennessee practices, Chaney has been seen focusing solely on the team’s offensive line during portions of practice the media has viewed, which suggests he’s doing everything in his power to whip the unit into shape, mentally and physically, to play in his offense in the season to come.

Chaney’s coaching has apparently been appreciated by the players working to earn their roles in his offense.

“He’s a great edition when he comes over there to help us, he just wants us to be better,” senior Brandon Kennedy said during his Wednesday media availability.

When asked about Tennessee’s offensive line not being set, Pruitt suggested the only starting role cemented on the team heading into the season is the one occupied by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Kennedy offered up his thoughts on the linemen being forced to prove themselves every day in practice — even if that means moving into new positions on the line during camp.

“Iron sharpens iron. We definitely want to get better,” he said. “Having multiple guys that can play multiple positions is really helpful once you get into the season.”

Finally, when asked to pinpoint what could be holding the unit back, the senior lineman offered his take on the subject.

“I can’t think of anything specifically. But I would have to say it’s getting everyone on the same page,” Kennedy concluded. “As an offensive line, one person can’t shine, it’s an entire unit, so we have to make sure we’re on the same page before every snap.”

Cover photo credit: Tennessee Athletics