Incentive plan

Like method actors, football players often perform best when they have a clearcut vision of their motivation.

Take Tennessee's Tauren Poole, for instance. Two years ago, he was the second-best running back on campus behind second-round NFL Draft pick Montario Hardesty. Still, Poole ranked fourth in carries that year behind Hardesty and two heralded freshmen who clearly received preferential treatment from head coach Lane Kiffin - Bryce Brown and David Oku.

Knowing he had been grossly under-used in 2009, Poole came out fanatically motivated under new head coach Derek Dooley in 2010. Poole responded by winning the first-team tailback job and rushing for 1,034 yards.

That raises the obvious question: Now that he no longer has that chip on his shoulder, what will be Tauren Poole's motivation for 2011?

"Consistency," he said recently. "There hasn't been a back-to-back 1,000 rusher in Tennessee history, so I've got to be consistent and I've got to continue to work hard to show I can play in this league."

Actually, Poole is looking to become the second Vol ever to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Johnnie Jones ran for 1,116 yards in 1983 and for 1,290 yards in '84.

Regardless, Poole understands that one good season hasn't convinced all of the skeptics that he is a big-time running back. That clearly motivates him to continue to develop his rushing, pass-protecting and receiving skills as his senior season approaches.

"I'm pretty sure there are still doubters out there," he said. "I don't believe I'm better than I really am, so I've always got to come out here and get better."

Proving his critics wrong isn't Poole's only incentive, however. Proving his supporters right is just as powerful a motivation.

"My family motivates me - my mom, my sisters," Poole said. "Just to see smiles on their faces when they see me succeed is motivating to me in itself."

After carrying the ball just 10 times in 2009, Poole carried it 204 times in 2010. He believes he learned something from each of last fall's carries.

"I think it helped me tremendously," he said. "I'm able to read defenses better, able to slow down a little and not be so excited. It's great because I see everything now, as opposed to just running through everything in my mind."

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