Among all the question marks for this Tennessee Volunteer football team as they progress through spring practice, the biggest will be the restructuring of the offensive line.
All five of Tennessee's starters in the trenches last season – Antonio Richardson, Ja'Wuan James, Alex Bullard, James Stone and Zach Fulton – either graduated or are declared for the NFL Draft, leaving a glaring hole on the offensive side of the ball.
But while replacing such a solid line won't be easy, the returning lineman believe there won't be that much of a drop-off heading into the 2014 season.
"That's what we have been looking for, for three years now," redshirt junior Kyler Kerbyson said after Tuesday's practice. "We thought we were just as good as those guys, and if you don't have that mindset, then you can't really go out there and perform like you want to."
Not every projected offensive lineman is a returning one, however, as early enrollees Coleman Thomas and Dontavius Blair are getting reps at right and left tackle, respectively.
"They have the physical ability to do it, they just have to get their minds right," Kerbyson said. "They just have to know they can beat those guys because they can; they are athletic, they are big and that's why we recruited them. They can do it. ... They just have to know they can do it.
"And they got to end up learning the plays. Plays are most important. As soon as Coleman Thomas and Dontavius Blair learn the plays, it's going to be over. (They are going to) dominate."
Other than Kerbyson, who has been getting reps at right guard and played on the field goal unit last season, the other projected offensive lineman are Mack Crowder (center) and Marcus Jackson (left guard).
Crowder started in the Vols' 23-21 victory over South Carolina due to Bullard being suspended for the first quarter of that game for violating team rules.
Jackson, a redshirt junior, has appeared in 24 games during his UT career, starting five of those contests his freshman year in 2011. However, due to UT's bevy of talent on the line last season, Jones asked Jackson – a challenger for a starting position – to redshirt in 2013. The Vero Beach, Fla., native now boasts two more years of eligibility.
"Me, Mack and Marcus have been connected for so long," Kerbyson said. "When one of us makes a play, the other two get even more jacked, even more excited for the next play.
"... We've been pushing each other since we got here and that's just the class rivalry that we had, so we are really connected."
As for Kerbyson, head coach Butch Jones has seen the Knoxville native grow before his eyes in the year he's been here.
"He continues to go through a great maturation phase," Jones said. "He has added a lot of strength, he's worked extremely hard and he's got a great opportunity and now he has to take advantage of it.
"Where he's at in one year's time is remarkable, but he still has to continue to make those strides and progress."
Position swap for Young
After being a running back for most of his career, the UT coaching staff decided to move Devrin Young from tailback to wide receiver prior to last season.
One year later, Young has been placed back into the backfield, where he has 155 rushing yards on 40 carries in his career.
"I was fine (with it)," Young said. "I told coach (Jones) that whatever way I could help the team, I was up for it. It was something that I was happy with; it's something that I've always done, so obviously I felt comfortable with it."
With a change in position comes a change in mentality, but having been a running back for a majority of his career, Young said he's already turned the page on what he needs to do.
"You have to get your mind ready to be physical every play, every practice," Young said, "whereas at wide out, you come out of practice feeling fresh, like you just got a nice little work out in."
As a true freshman, Malik Foreman's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start.
In the Vols' season opener against Austin Peay, the Kingsport, Tenn., native intercepted an Andrew Spivey pass early in the fourth quarter to become the first Tennessee true freshman to have a pick in a season opener since Dwayne Goodrich back on Aug. 31, 1996.
After that, however, Foreman rarely found the field, as he played in nine games primarily as a special teams player.
"It was a little hard," Foreman said, "but I understood the circumstances and knew what was going on, so I just used that as motivation to keep me going."
Going into this season, Foreman said he's worked hard in spring training to meet some of the goals he set for himself coming into the season.
"(I want to) earn a starting role," Forman said. "(I want to) help this team out and I just want to perfect my skills and my techniques."