Young can't 'cut' it

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As a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior coming out of Bearden (Tenn.) High School, Tennessee tailback Devrin Young didn't even consider himself to be a candidate for an every-down runner in the Southeastern Conference.

Fast forward two years and Young, now listed just seven pounds heavier as a college sophomore, isn't just looking at a role on special teams, but by all accounts he has moved himself into the two-deep at tailback behind junior Rajion Neal.

"He has just been working hard," running backs coach Jay Graham told InsideTennessee. "Sometimes he doesn't realize that he is doing everything that an every-down back does. He has run very well between the tackles and he is a guy that is very hard to tackle.

"When he can get in the open field he can make plays. He took a 5-yard check-down pass 72 yards. Those are the type of plays that I see Devrin making. He is really improving on all levels."

Young, who finished his freshman season with just six carries for 9 yards and three catches for 25 yards, is thankful to have a former Tennessee tailback and NFLer at the helm of his position group.

"Coach Graham is an awesome coach," Young said. "I am really blessed to have him. As a teacher, he cares about us and pushes us hard each and every day. There is never a day where he doesn't have a way for us to improve our game. He is always pushing us to be better."

Not only has Young improved his running between the tackles, but he has also learned to pop with the best of them in pass protection without his greatest asset — the cut block.

"I think the best thing that has happened to him is he is not allowed to cut," Graham said. "He is not allowed to cut in practice. He is taking these guys on. He is realizing that his leverage and bringing a punch at the right time can ricochet that contact.

"I have shown him examples of guys like Darren Sproles, (Danny) Woodhead, the guy at the Patriots, of guys just taking these guys on. He is doing a really good job in pass protection, he is starting to get more confident with it and it is all about the technique."

Young, who is, on average, 65 pounds lighter than Tennessee's linebacking corps, is learning how to block on the level of NFL backs of similar size in preparation for the 2012 season.

"At least I know what to expect when I do get hit head on by a guy that is like 250," Young said. "There is plenty of room for me to grow in pass pro and obviously when I can cut it will add another skill to it, but I have seen Woodhead block Ray Lewis like it wasn't even him. It just shows it can be done. We are all working on it every day."

Young is also expected to take on roles in special teams this fall, including punt return and kick return.

Watch as running backs coach Jay Graham speaks on his group heading into the 2012 season:

Chris Price is a staff writer for He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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