Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley makes a tackle in last year's win at Tennessee.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – They say their favorite place to go eat as a unit is the Mandarin Palace, a Chinese buffet located in a Knoxville mall.
When Tennessee coach Butch Jones took over the program, he recommended a few more salads for his oversized offensive line.
The Vols’ starting offensive linemen have dropped some weight under Jones, but Gators coach Will Muschamp said they still present an enormous road block for those trying to get to the buffet line or opposing quarterbacks.
“This will be the best offensive line we will face this year,” Muschamp said. “Our guys felt that way last year after we played them.”
Tennessee’s veteran line has nearly 150 career starts and impressed 6-foot-7 Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner on Saturday despite the Ducks’ rolling to a 59-14 victory.
“The biggest I’ve gone against in my college career,’’ Buckner told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.
How big are they?
Left tackle Antonio ‘Tiny’ Richardson is 6-foot-6, 327 pounds, left guard Alex Bullard (6-2, 302), center James Stone (6-3, 291), right guard Zach Fulton (6-5, 323) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (6-6, 318). If the Texas Instruments-1726 calculator (circa 1994) on my desk still works correctly, that’s 1,561 pounds of humanity.
Or as Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease might say, a 1,561-pound “mosh pit of humanity.”
With four seniors and a junior (Richardson) up front, the offensive line was the most experienced and talented unit on the team Jones inherited.
The Vols led the SEC in fewest sacks allowed last season and ranked fifth nationally. Through three games the Vols have allowed only two sacks, tied for fewest in the conference.
Tennessee’s massive offensive line against Florida’s SEC-leading defense will be an interesting battle to watch Saturday.
“Our goal is not to let an offense score, period,” Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley said. “Once we manage to get that stat, we could say we have one of the best defenses.”
If that happens Saturday versus the Vols, you know Easley and Co. will have earned it.