It’s a goat-or-hero position.
Elbow sleeves keep blood from draining out freely. Shoulder straps go over and under sockets to keep joints from separating. Walking boots immobilize just long enough to be gameday-ready.
Playing running back amongst the big boys isn’t for everybody. Ask the handful that signed letters of intent with Tennessee and never saw a dozen carries.
Jalen Hurd, Marlin Lane and Devrin Young all either know or quickly learning about the bumpy ride of toting the rock on Rocky Top. The schedule is never going to provide clear sledding, which means some of the top defenses and their ferocious tackles study film on the ball carriers’ tendencies, play calls and have every intention of pounding the Volunteers to the turf.
It’s not a one-man job. All three saw carries against Florida with Hurd and Malone splitting 20 attempts evenly. Hurd leads the team in both attempts (82) and rushing yards (384).
Freshman Derrell Scott suffered a broken bone last winter, spent a majority of training camp unable to strap up with a foot booted.
“Really like his approach, his approach to practice,” coach Butch Jones said. “He adds another level of quickness and speed to our backfield. So, again, I like the progression that he’s going through right now. He’s an individual that’s missed some valuable reps throughout the course of time. To have him back right now healthy would be a bonus and add another dimension to our offense.”
Searching for more depth and in attempt to bring a pure speed element to the position, Tennessee took a look Tuesday at Evan Berry with the running backs.
“Just experimentation,” Jones said. “He had all the reps at defense but every chance we had with individuals and after practice. Again, trying to find a spot for him to utilize his speed.”
Berry, whose father James played running back for the Vols 1978-81, has worked exclusively as a defensive back and kick returner in August and September.
“(Evan Berry)’s an athletic kid,” running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. “Obviously in high school he’s a guy that with the ball in his hand, he made a lot of plays. We’re just trying to find the best way to get a lot of our young kids on the field. Obviously, defense is first and foremost his position. They think he’s going to be a heck of a football player. When we can get a guy like that that’s used to having the ball in his hands, see what he can do on offense and maybe can give us some juice. We’ll just take a couple times a week just to give him some time on offense and see what he can learn.”
Hurd and Lane will carry the load a majority of the remaining portion of 2014. Young will continue to focus his attention on the return game. While Berry is the experiment and may or may not see a handoff, Scott figures to be the added dimension for the Vols offense.
“(Scott)’s very quick, very elusive, he’s a downhill runner but very, very quick with the ball in his hands, makes quick decisions, can make you miss but has good burst and acceleration,” Jones said.Pass protection is part of the reason why Scott hasn't yet seen the field after being healthy enough to play in each of the last two games.
“That’s huge, even with Jalen (Hurd). The great thing about Jalen was the first two opponents were good opponents but not SEC, so he could jump in and learn … and he did. I think he gradually moved up and understands the violence it takes to protect. Derrell Scott is the same instance but now it’s Game 6 being thrown out there. Obviously, I have to put him in situations where he can protect himself and also protect the quarterback. Hopefully, this week he can get in there, play ball, make some plays and see what happens.”
Scott was part of three straight NCHSAA state championships with Havelock High School. The Semper Fidelis All-American ran for 6,145 yards and 87 touchdowns on the prep level.
Find out more about the Vols by viewing the InsideTennessee video below:
Butch Jones post-practice
Jay Robertson video interview
Justin Worley video interview