Players entering the transfer portal this offseason left Tennessee football thin at many positions, and offensive line was not spared. The Vols particularly were hit at tackle, with Wanya Morris transferring to the Oklahoma Sooners and Jahmir Johnson transferring to the Texas A&M Aggies.
Still, the line as a whole would have been salvageable if there were no key injuries at tackle or center. Well, now that’s changed. Josh Heupel stated in his Thursday press conference that Calbert recently had surgery and will be out for “an extended amount of time.”
Jimmy Hyams of WNML reported that Tennessee football’s 6’5″ 325-pound fifth-year senior suffered a biceps injury. As a result, it’s pretty clear that Calbert will be out for a couple of months. Hyams reported the news on Twitter.
Make no mistake, this is a big deal. The Vols have one proven offensive tackle on their roster in Darnell Wright. A former five-star in UT’s 2019 recruiting class, Wright has been lining up at left tackle this preseason.
Other players do have potential. Former walk-on Dayne Davis emerged in the spring, and junior college transfer Jeremiah Crawford was Heupel’s only signee in the 2021 recruiting class. Both of those guys along with Wright could provide a solid rotation.
However, that’s nowhere near enough. It’s hard to think either player is ready to handle the starting responsibilities at the SEC level, but that’s what one of them will have to do. Both are going to have to be ready to see lots of action.
To make matters worse, Heupel’s tempo requires a deep rotation at tackle, as it emphasizes stretch running plays along with the passing game. Depth is crucial there for that offense, and right now, the Vols just don’t have it.
Beyond those three guys, William Parker and RJ Perry are likely to help with the depth. However, Parker is a true freshman, and Perry, a redshirt freshman, converted to the position after initially signing to play for Tennessee football as an edge rusher.
Cade Mays is the best lineman on the team and arguably the best player overall. He would be the best lineman if he played tackle as well. However, it’s always been best for him to line up at guard, where he is best at.
Simply put, Heupel, Alex Golesh and Glen Elarbee are in a predicament with Calbert now hurt. They’re going to have to rely on potential on at least one side there, and they’ll have to fully rely on potential when it comes to depth.
Of course, the coaches are already relying on potential for plenty of other positions as well. Tackle was not one Tennessee football needed to add to the list. This does show why spring practice is important though, as it’s where Davis emerged. At least the Vols have a new player they can turn to, and that wouldn’t have become apparent without what happened in March and April.