The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Hurd ran for 899 yards en route to honorable mention Freshman All-America honors in 2014. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Kamara is a five-star signee from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College whose outside speed is the perfect complement to Hurd’s inside power.
“I think they complement each other with their different styles of play,” head coach Butch Jones told InsideTennessee. “If you look at any great offense, they have more than one marquee back; they have a stable of backs. We haven't had that luxury here – we’re still lacking depth at the running back position – but I see Jalen and Alvin really feeding off each other."
Kamara can’t wait to combine with Hurd in battering opposing defenders, noting: “I think it will be a heck of a pressure on a defense. Jalen is a bigger body. He can run on the edge and he can pound it on the inside. And me, I can get on the edge and just give them that pressure to have to contain. Working off the play action, it will be fun."
Likewise, first-team right tackle Brett Kendrick can’t wait to block for the dynamic duo.
“Jalen’s a big boy … a power back but he’s got some speed and some moves,” Kendrick said. “Alvin … man, he’s quick. He’s been flying around all over the place. He’s very good on the zone runs and getting to the outside. It’s all about speed. Alvin can really run. I would say he‘s adjusted very well. He’s perfect for what we’re trying to do in this offense.”
Jalen Reeves-Maybin smiled sheepishly and shook his head.
"I didn’t, unfortunately,” he said. “You’ve got to catch him. He's a fast guy who gets on the edge, and everybody has to make sure they take good angles (or he’s gone). He had a couple of plays today where I know I couldn't get to him."
One play in particular showcased Kamara’s speed. Bouncing a run to the outside, he shifted into a gear Maybin lacks and was off to the races.
Recalling the play, Kamara happily noted: “I got past him, and he was like, `I didn't know you were that fast!'”
Whereas the 227-pound Hurd can run over defenders, Kamara prefers to run around them.
“When the pads come on,” he said, flashing a big grin, “I ain't trying to get hit."
Kamara excels at avoiding hits. That’s why he was a top-100 player as a senior at Norcross (Georgia) High School in 2012 and an Alabama signee in 2013. After redshirting as a Tide freshman, he transferred to Hutchinson, where he ran for 1,211 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games last fall.
“I have an electric running style — quick, explosive,” he said. “I feel like I can turn an 8-yard play into 80."
First, he has to earn the right to play. That’s his goal this spring.
"I just want to show the coaches what I can do,” he said. “I’m going to have to be a weapon this year, so I want to show them that I can be a weapon this year.”
Great runners rely on vision, instinct and elusiveness. Still, they must learn the technical aspects of running-back play when they reach the college level. Kamara is trying to incorporate the lessons he’s learning this spring without sacrificing his natural skills.
"I’m just trying not to overthink things,” he said. “It's easy to get in a new system and overthink the simple things, so I'm trying to just take the directions the coaches are giving me and run with them. I'm trying not to overcomplicate things."
Even learning a new system, Kamara’s explosiveness is evident.
“Yeah, you could see it,” Jones said following Saturday’s practice. “Sometimes the mind is still tying the feet up a little bit with the protections and different run schemes and route-running but you could see the natural instincts. You can see the toughness and the ability to make people miss. You see where he has a lot of potential.”
So does Jalen Hurd. Maybe Thunder and Lightning will provide a perfect storm for Tennessee’s running game this fall.
Kamara interview after 1st padded practice