Talent at the running back position must be recruited.
No matter how talent the position coach, taking a 5-foot-8 butterball with 5.1 speed and molding him into a game-changer in the Southeastern Conference just ain't gonna happen.
The staff at Tennessee understands this and went out and signed top-shelf runners such as Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. The pair compliment each other quite well and combine with quarterback Joshua Dobbs to give the Volunteers one of the most dangerous backfields in the nation, boasting the No. 2 rushing offense in the SEC in 2015, averaging 223.7 yards per game.
However, change is expected after teh 2016 season. Dobbs graduates and most believe both Hurd and Kamara will depart early for NFL riches.
That leaves coach Butch Jones and his staff with probably the sexiest thing running back recruits want to hear about — playing time.
Here's a look at some of the top running back targets for Tennessee in the 2017 class, all of which are in the Scout 300:
Ties to the Magnolia State work in Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie’s favor in his attempt to land that area’s best offensive weapon in 2017. It’s going to take a hard-hat effort and relationship building to get Akers to flip away from Alabama. The Tide signing B.J. Emmons after Damien Harris means there could be a roadblock in front of touches early in the career of most ball carriers wanting to play in Tuscaloosa. Add in that the Scout No. 1 junior in the nation is a back pledged to Nick Saban and the writing may be on the wall. Opportunities to get between the lines on fall Saturday’s will be mentioned quite often by Gillespie and the orange-clad team. Akers told IT that he has “always liked Tennessee,” so if there’s a program that may could get him to change his mind, it’s Tennessee. Akers saw Tennessee play Missouri at Neyland Stadium in the 2014 season.
Chandler is another back that Gillespie has been in on for over a year already and an example of why staff solidarity is beneficial to Tennessee. The four-star was a key cog on MBA’s 2014 TSSAA Division II Class AA state championship run and was a hair away from helping the Big Red go back-to-back. InsideTennessee has seen the Nashville-based back in person three times and his skill set is that of a multi-purpose back. Chandler has lined up in the slot, caught the ball out in space while at the same time put his team on his shoulders with everything on the line and performed as evident by his 398 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in his junior season finale with a gold ball on the line. The Scout No. 104 prospect in the nation has been to Rocky Top multiple times.
Larry Scott’s joining the Tennessee staff this winter immediately gave the Orange & White more of a presence in South Florida and offers flew out the window with the former Miami interim head coach on board. Lemons, a Clearwater resident, is right smack in the middle of the prime hunting grounds of Scott and the No. 13 runner in the South got the Vols offer not long after Scott agreed to terms. The task to get Lemons won’t be simple as Michigan and now Ohio State have a lead on other suitors.
The Scout top-ranked runner in the Volunteer State has a TSSAA championship ring to go with all the praise. Whether Hurd vacates the between-the-tackles role after the upcoming season or the next, Tennessee is going to have to sign a battering ram to replace Hurd. Richardson could be that guy and does not shy away from contact. Heading into his junior season, Florida State appeared to have a lead on others but that has leveled out some and competitors like Tennessee have an open door to swing the Memphis native.
The Scout network has the long Sermon rated as the Peach State’s best back for 2017, which means Tennessee will have to beat out Southeastern Conference rivals to gain his signature. Sermon received his 31st offer (Notre Dame) this week. Gillespie has done work here already, too, hosting Sermon for an Orange Carpet Day last summer. At 6-feet-1, he has the frame to add a pile of good weight, similar to Lemons. That makes Sermon another candidate to fulfill the role Hurd will have had for three straight seasons. Looks up to former Alabama standout T.J. Yeldon.