Nov. 4, 2011
BY MATT MAGILL
The winds of change have howled all through Tennessee's offensive side of the ball this season. Injuries, position changes - name it and the Vols offense has seen it.
But the calm throughout these Tennessee storms has been junior offensive tackle Dallas Thomas, who this week is making his 22nd consecutive start and has become a steadying influence for his younger teammates.
"It's just a good feeling to know that it's stable at the left tackle spot," Thomas said. "I feel like the coaches will make the best decision on who needs to go where around me and I will work with whoever they put in."
Thomas, who helped pave the way for Tauren Poole's 1,000-yard season in 2010, takes pride in being the eldest offensive lineman and handles the extra responsibility that goes along with the role.
"When stuff goes wrong, I make sure the younger guys don't lose focus after something bad happens to them and I tell them to keep pushing," Thomas said. "There's another play after the one that just happened, so don't worry about the last play. Just keep pushing on."
"I lead by example, but when it comes time to step up and say something, I do that," Thomas said. "Mostly I lead by example, but if a guy still isn't getting it, I'll step up and say what I need to and show them how to do it."
True freshman Justin Worley recently started his first game at quarterback for UT. Thomas has now seen three signal-callers during his 21-game start streak.
"It's a big change for the offense, but it's not for the O-line because we went through a similar situation last year with Bray," Thomas said. "We trust whomever Coach Dooley puts in. If he feels Worley is ready, we support Coach all the way and we know Worley will get the job done."
Thomas, who feels he is equally adept at pass- and run-blocking, still has more than a season remaining with this talented group of offensive lineman. He relishes the opportunity to shine together as a unit.
"The sky's the limit for us if we stick together and make sure nothing comes between us," Thomas said. "If we stay together, stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize, everything will be OK no matter what comes our way."