The Times Free Press is taking a daily positional look at the 2017 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team, leading up to the first practice Monday. Today we look at the offensive line:
The Mocs head toward camp with only two seniors — Josh Cardiello and Alex Hooper — on the offensive line, and only three — Cardiello and sophomores Brian Marshall and Malcolm White — with as much as a start on their résumés. Cardiello and White, both preseason All-Southern Conference team selections, were entrenched in the starting lineup last year and will be looked to as leaders as other players are brought along this season. The unit must work to recover from the losses of Tennessee Titans' sixth-round draft pick Corey Levin; Jacob Revis and Hunter Townson, three-year starting linemen who graduated and have elected not to play their final seasons with the program; and promising junior Kennington Cadwell, who was dismissed from the program in the spring.
New Mocs coach Tom Arth and his staff brought in three offensive linemen in the 2017 signing class: McClendon Curtis, Dakota Davis and Demyan Ross. With the level of inexperience even among returning players on the line, this group could have opportunities for playing time early. Curtis steps on campus as the biggest guy on the team — the former Central High School player weighs 320 pounds and is 6-foot-8 with an arm length one UTC coach described as "NFL level." Davis graduated from Bearden early and participated in spring practice with the Mocs. Redshirts Quintin Alibocas, Payton Anderton, Gabe Dew and Cole Strange will be looking for chances to play as well after sitting out the 2016 season.
Cardiello, who is entering his third season as a starter, gives the group a certified leader in the middle as he makes the move from guard to center. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder, who was ranked by one publication as the No. 5 center in the country in high school, spent some time at the position while at the University of Georgia, so he won't be inexperienced and has had plenty of reps. White was an All-SoCon freshman selection last season, and he was especially strong going against the Alabama defensive line in the regular-season finale.
This unit — however it ends up being constructed — has no experience together, which is already a tough combination to deal with, and it's one that's compounded by having a new staff. Individually they aren't very experienced, and players will have chances to prove they belong in the rotation during fall camp. The expectation from some around the program is that the group will eventually become a strong unit due to overall talent but there will be some growing pains along the way.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.