A closer look at Tennessee’s big losses looming on offensive, defensive lines

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — With five months left before the 2013 season kicks off, it seems vastly premature to look ahead to 2014.

But we did anyway. And if you think this season’s roster presents some challenges, you don’t want to look ahead to 2014.

The biggest attrition is on the lines. The defense line will lose six players to graduation after 2013; the offensive line is losing at least four.

Three factors make those losses more dire:

* Tennessee is losing major contributors on both sides; these aren’t just role players.

* There is little experience waiting in the wings.

* Immediate-impact linemen are rare.

What conclusions can we draw?

* The Vols will go after a ton of linemen in the 2014 class.

* UT has to look very hard in the junior college ranks.

* Coaches will have to use this season (including the ongoing spring practices) to determine who they can count on to play a major role in 2014.

UT can sign at least 29 this year, and possibly more. (I’m working to pin down the exact number — or at least the most educated guess — as scholarship numbers are not always clear cut).

To determine Tennessee’s “needs” for 2014, I set up some “goals” for each position. These are obviously flexible and subject to change. I’ve already tweaked them a bit, by dropping linebackers to 11 and bumping defensive backs and linemen to 15.

Jones has said he would like five quarterbacks, but for the purposes of this chart, I gave him four. Likewise, I think they’d probably prefer more than 12 receivers, but I couldn’t find a way to give them any more. Fifteen offensive linemen may be a bit ambitious, but since the position has five starting slots, it seemed fair.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on improving the chart.

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