Thursday, July 1, 2010

Smotherman shooting for miracle recovery

I wasn't expecting Adam Smotherman, the redshirt senior defesnive tackle who tore an ACL in the spring, to play this season.

But now Jeff Lockridge of the Tennessean reports today that Smo is actually running and expects to start planting his feet and cutting in a couple of weeks, and that he's set a goal of playing the season opener against Northwestern, which is two months away.

He's got a streak of 23 consecutive starts to protect, as Lockridge points out — junior linebacker Chris Marve leads the team with 25 straight starts.

I don't really expect Smo to be in the starting lineup on Sept. 4, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised either.

I do expect one or two true freshmen to be ready to play right away at defensive tackle, probably Vince Taylor and maybe Jared Morse. On signing day, Bobby Johnson declared his new group of defensive linemen — Taylor, Morse, Kyle Woestmann, James Kittredge and Thomas Ryan — to be “probably the most ready-to-go defensive line we’ve ever recruited,” saying he expected them to “push some people and be a force.”

Taylor and Morse are in the 270-280 range and have always been listed as tackles. They're athletic guys with good motors who enjoy being in the trenches.

Woestmann, a workout freak who says he expects to play end, is concentrating more on speed and strength right now instead of bulk and along with redshirt freshman Walker May will likely push upperclassmen Tim Fugger, Theron Kadri and Terrial Brannon.

Kittredge is a swing guy who could play right away in the trenches if absolutely necessary, while Ryan was recruited as an end and is a whole bunch of steak dinners away from lining up against SEC O-linemen.

Right now, redshirt sophomore Rob Lohr is penciled in as the starter opposite T.J. Greenstone, with depth coming from redshirt sophomores Colt Nichter, who saw a few snaps last year, and Taylor Loftley, a pretty good prospect who hasn't played yet.

It's incredible to think that we played only three defensive tackles (Billinger, Smotherman, Greenstone) during the entire Music City Bowl season of 2008. Lohr and Nichter were on the sidelines as true freshmen but were considered to be only emergency players and fortunately were never needed.

If Smo returns, we'll be four deep without the true freshmen, but these guys are far more ready for SEC play than Lohr and Nichter were two years ago. Between the offensive and defensive lines, there will be some hard-fought battles in the trenches during pre-season camp.

Lockridge reports that left tackle Ryan Seymour is strengthening his shoulder in the weight room and should be ready to go for the opener. Also, TE Austin Monahan says he's bigger, faster and stronger after recovering from an ACL tear nearly eight months ago. Wesley Tate (broken foot) should be ready to line up at running back and Tristan Strong (ACL) should be competing for a starting linebacker position.

I think the opening day lineups for linemen will be:

Offensive: R-SR Joey Bailey at center, R-JR Kyle Fischer and R-FR Wesley Johnson at guards, and Ryan Seymour and Caleb Welchans at tackles

Defensive: R-JR T.J. Greenstone and R-SO Rob Lohr at tackles with FR Vince Taylor first off the bench, and R-JR Tim Fugger and R-SR Teriall Brannon at ends with R-FR Walker May first off the bench.

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