The position group with the most promise returning on Tennessee’s roster is the offensive line.
That’s one reason why the offensive line was represented at SEC Media Days to usher in the 2017 season.
Senior Jashon Robertson, who has started 35 games for the Vols, represented the team at the event this week in Hoover, Ala.
“Picking the three individuals to be here today, that wasn’t an easy task,” coach Butch Jones said. “There were a number who deserved the right to represent Tennessee here today. The great thing is we have a lot of individuals stepping up as leaders.”
Robertson, a Nashville native, played early at Tennessee to help build the Volunteers’ program back to national prominence. He became only the fourth Tennessee true freshman to start his first game on the offensive line, joining Bill Mayo (1981), Michael Munoz (2000) and Ja’Wuan James (2010).
But the time on Rocky Top has not always been easy for the 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman, who has started at left and right guard and spent time at center this spring during Coleman Thomas’absence. He battled ankle injuries at times.
Robertson can do it all and, importantly, is a team player. That was shown by him changing from jersey No. 73 to No. 75 during fall camp in 2015 as a tribute to senior lineman Marcus Jackson, who suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp.
That same season, Robertson was part of an offensive line that helped the Vols produce 2,908 rushing yards (second best in program history) and rack up 422.3 total yards per game.
Robertson understands past success along with past failures. Last season’s stumbling finish after a 5-0 start brought criticism of the program.
“We aren’t really paying much attention to the outside noise,” Robertson said, pointing out that the Vols are coming off consecutive nine-win seasons. “Also, we won three consecutive bowl games, and that hasn’t been done here in a long time.”
Robertson likes the returning experience and depth on the offensive line with Trey Smith, Drew Richmond, Brett Kendrick, Coleman Thomas, Jack Jones, Venzell Boulware, Chance Hall and Marcus Tatum.
“We have a lot of positive competition in our room, which pushes guys day in and day out. We expect to win every game. That’s always been our goal.”
He said accountability is at the forefront this year.
“First and foremost, we have to come and perform.”
— O&W Report (@OandWReport) July 10, 2017
The accountability goes hand-in-hand with being in better shape, something the team is working toward under new strength and conditioning coordinator Rock Gullickson.
“We have to perform in the weight room and on the practice field,” Robertson said.