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Will Drew Richmond Start as True Freshman for Vols?

If you’re a Tennessee fan you’re well aware of Drew Richmond’s recruitment. Richmond was the top in-state prospect for the 2015 class and ranked as a four-star offensive lineman.

The Memphis native was long committed to Ole Miss before taking an campus visit to Tennessee days before National Signing Day. Coincidentally, Richmond announced his decommitment from the Rebels that same weekend.

To no one’s surprise, he committed to Vols shortly after.

Richmond wasn’t the highest ranked player in Tennessee’s 2015 class — he was sixth — but may have been the most import based on team needs. The Vols had the worst offensive line in the SEC and allowed a conference worst 43 sacks and 101 tackles for loss.

Now you’d think this would mean Richmond was a shoe-in to start in 2015. However, the Vols’ biggest problem in the trenches was inexperience.

Tennessee returned zero starters and saw its worst performances early in SEC play. The team made slight progress as the season progressed and is expected to improve with a full-year of in-game experience.

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Tennessee’s offensive line should be improved from a dismal 2014, and freshman Drew Richmond will accelerate that progress.

But that doesn’t stop the optimistic freshman. Richmond told 247Sports.com that his intention is to start in the Vols season opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 5.

“My expectation is for me to start,” said Richmond. “I feel like I can get in there and develop pretty good. I feel like I’m pretty good, and once I get the coaching that the college level offers, I think I can be ready Day One. I expect to start. I just feel like I’ve got the talent to do it, and the situation is good, and I’m going to try to take advantage of it.”

“I just feel like with my talent and the way I work, I feel like I can start at one of (the tackle spots). We’ll have to see (which one). I don’t want to say anything that will offend the older guys or anything. But I’m just going to go in there and work, and I expect to start.”

Richmond went a step further by predicting his team’s chances at a conference title.

“I expect us to win the SEC championship,” he said. “We might not be that good, but our swag is different than any other SEC school. It’s not together yet, but I think it can come together in a couple years.”

As someone who watched Tennessee all season I can tell you that Richmond’s chances of starting aren’t improbable. Sure, the Vols lacked experience, but not one player was as prized a prospect as the Memphis native.

Tennessee’s makeshift line lacked both experience and talent which was torturous to watch as a fan. Both Richmond and fellow four-star freshman Jack Jones — who enrolled in January — could start by midseason if the coaching staff deems them ready for SEC play.

As far as Richmond’s SEC Championship prediction, the biggest hurdle for the Vols will be the offensive line. Maybe Richmond knows something we don’t and Tennessee’s problem is solved.

The Vols have talent at the skill positions but need to improve in the trenches. Should Richmond reach his potential early, Tennessee’s offense should see improvement in 2015.

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