Nov. 2, 2001

By Greg Ladky

The Irish offensive line will face one of their more difficult tests Saturday in battling a very talented Tennessee defensive line. Tennessee poses two elite players in tackle John Henderson and end Will Overstreet. Irish junior offensive guard Ryan Gillis says his unit is ready for the challenge against one of the nation’s best defensive lines.

“I don’t know if they are the best defensive line we’ve seen, but they are definitely one of the best,” Gillis said. “They are the most straight up powerful line. We’ve watched film where they have pushed opponents straight back into the quarterback. We’ve gone against smaller and faster defensive lines that were pretty tough as well. It’s two different styles of play, but they are pretty good.”

The Irish have mainly faced defensive fronts that rely on quickness and movement, such as USC and Texas A&M. The Irish offensive line will have to change their approach this weekend against Tennessee.

“We have to concentrate more on being physical inside,” Gillis said. “We have to come off harder and lower than we have before. We don’t have to worry about quick line movement as much. We can’t be passive. We must be aggressive. We’re going to try o run right at them.”

As the Irish running attack has improved over the last month, the offensive line has started to gel into a solid unit. Gillis likes what he sees up front for the Irish.

“Our offensive line, like most offensive lines, is a team within a team. We all get along, we hang out together. No matter who is in there, we all play well with one another. We haven’t quite found the perfect mix yet, the right five guys who are going to hit you and run like a well oiled machine, but we are getting closer every game.”