Redeemed rusher

One Vol had a lot to prove in Tennessee's second scrimmage of the spring. Sign in or subscribe now to read how he responded to the challenge.

After rushing for eight yards on seven carries in Spring Scrimmage No. 1, Tennessee's Marlin Lane was looking for yards and redemption Saturday in Scrimmage No. 2.

He found both.

Lane needed just 12 attempts to notch 71 yards and lead all ball-carriers. Rather than feeling vindication, though, the guy who entered spring practice listed No. 1 at tailback felt mostly relief ... relief that he redeemed himself in front of the other tailbacks.

"I had a bad week last week, and they picked me up," he said, "so I had to come out and not let 'em down."

Embarrassed by his paltry numbers in Scrimmage No. 1, Lane felt a little extra motivation in Scrimmage No. 2.

"I just thought that I needed to stay focused and run more physical," he said. "I needed to get my mind set on football, and not outside (matters)."

Derek Dooley seemed almost as relieved as Lane by the improved performance.

"Marlin ran with a lot more toughness and aggressiveness, and it showed," Tennessee's head coach said. "He had good numbers -- about six yards per carry -- so that was good."

With two-year starter Tauren Poole out of eligibility, Lane was supposed to lock up the first-team tailback job by mid-spring. Gaining eight yards on seven carries in the initial scrimmage failed to accomplish that.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney isn't placing too much stock in scrimmage numbers.
(Danny Parker/
"I was disappointed in how he performed last week, and he was, too," Dooley said. "Like good players do, he responded well. He had a good couple of days toward the end of the (practice) week, and I think he was ready to go out there and prove what he can do."

Now that he proved what he can do, the 6-foot, 205-pound rising sophomore is feeling much better about himself.

"I'm a lot more confident this week than last week," Lane said. "I'm maintaining and going day by day."

Lane suffered an ACL tear that basically wiped out his senior year of high school in 2010. He recovered in time to play for the 2011 Vols but ran tentatively at times, apparently favoring the surgically repaired knee. Several tailbacks, including former Vol Jamal Lewis, felt far better two years removed from ACL surgery. Lane says that's the case with him, as well.

"I feel a whole lot different," he said. "I feel I can play to my ability now without worrying 'Is my knee going to give out on me?' I feel 100 percent. I'm feeling good. Just rolling."

In addition to a stable knee, Lane believes he has regained the speed he had prior to the ACL tear.

"I can tell that I'm moving a lot faster," he said. "And I don't have to worry about it getting sore. I'm ready to go."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney put little stock in Lane's paltry first-scrimmage numbers. Likewise, Chaney put little stock in backup tailback Rajion Neal's imposing first-scrimmage numbers (15 carries, 100 yards).

"It's like any time a running back gets hot in a ballgame; it just seemed like everything clicked for Rajion," the coordinator said. "Maybe the line hit a few guys better or maybe a receiver made a big block downfield. I can't remember any differences in the two."

First-year running backs coach Jay Graham was pleased with Lane even after his eight-yard performance in the opening scrimmage.

"He had a lot of goal-line runs," Graham said. "I thought that was good for him to get those runs close to the goal line. It's not all about the stats. It's about what runs you get, and he did a good job with the runs he got."

Graham qualifies as something of an expert on running. He ran for 1,438 yards as a Vol junior in 1995, setting a single-season record that stood until Travis Stephens broke it in 2001.

Asked if he has watched any film of his position coach in action, Lane nodded and smiled.

"I saw some highlight tapes on the computer in early February," Lane said. "He can go."

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