Jones: Vols don’t plan changes on offensive line

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee coach Butch Jones says he isn’t planning on making any lineup changes to an offensive line that has given up the most sacks in the Southeastern Conference.

The Volunteers yielded six sacks Saturday as they fell 10-9 to Florida for their third consecutive loss. Tennessee has given up 18 sacks through the first five games of the year. Only seven of the nation’s 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools are allowing more sacks per game.

”It is what it is,” Jones said. ”Those are the five that we have. Those are the five we feel gives us the best opportunity on Saturdays, and we’re sticking with those five.”

Tennessee (2-3) replaced all five starters on last year’s offensive line and lost starting left tackle Jacob Gilliam to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener. After going through different line combinations in each of Tennessee’s first three games, Jones said after a 34-10 loss to Oklahoma that he would stick with the five linemen who started that game.

Jones said Monday he’s sticking with that combination even after Tennessee gave up its highest sack total of the season and rushed for only 29 yards on 28 carries against Florida. That starting line includes junior left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, junior left guard Marcus Jackson, junior center Mack Crowder, freshman right guard Jashon Robertson and freshman right tackle Coleman Thomas.

Tennessee figured to have problems on the offensive line as it replaced a group from last year that included three players now on NFL active rosters: Miami’s Ja’Wuan James, Kansas City’s Zach Fulton and Atlanta’s James Stone. A fourth starting lineman from last year’s team – Antonio ”Tiny” Richardson – is on injured reserve with the Minnesota Vikings.

Their departures left Tennessee with a troubling lack of depth on the line, a holdover from recruiting struggles in previous years. Tennessee’s 2012 recruiting class didn’t include a single offensive lineman.

”You look at it, that’s the most unglorified position in sport,” Jones said. ”They never get complimented, they never score touchdowns. It’s like a fistfight in a phone booth on every single snap. There’s a mental toughness that goes into it. It’s a gladiator sport inside. There are so many things that you have to possess to play in the offensive line. You have to be athletic enough now, particularly in this conference, to block 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 defensive ends that run 4.5 40s. So, those are developmental positions. Are there some players playing before their time? Maybe, but I think they’re doing a fairly decent job. We have to continue to get better. They’re all that we have.”

Tennessee’s offensive line won’t necessarily get a breather Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision program Chattanooga (3-2). The Mocs’ defensive line features Davis Tull, a Knoxville native and two-time Southern Conference defensive player of the year who has 31 1/2 career sacks.

NOTES: Jones said he had dialogue with the SEC office about Florida’s game-winning field goal against Tennessee. Replays showed the play clock appeared to reach zero just before the ball was snapped. Jones said he hadn’t heard back from the SEC on the matter. … Jones said he expected freshman running back Jalen Hurd to participate in Monday’s practice, which was closed to the media. A shoulder injury limited Hurd in the second half of the Florida game. … Tennessee officials sent students an email criticizing them for directing profane chants at Florida during last week’s game. The letter, signed by chancellor Jimmy Cheek, athletic director Dave Hart and vice chancellor for student life Vince Carilli, said the chants were ”totally unacceptable” and that ”as Volunteers, we are better than that and our expectation is that this kind of behavior will never happen again.”