West Coast Back Breaks For UT

When you have to recruit nationally to fill out top ten classes, you cover the continental United States from coast to coast and all points in between.

Never has that been more evident than the last three days when Tennessee committed O-line prospects from Georgia on Sunday and Monday followed by a California running back on Tuesday. Arian Foster became commitment No. 18 in UT's current class and will join Louisiana running back Ja'Kouri Williams in attempting to revive Tennessee's ground game. Rated No. 70 among the nation's running back prospects, Foster immediately becomes the dark horse in UT's tailback stable. The reasons: all five of his competitors are from the south and all were ranked among the nation's top 10 backs coming out of high school. Jabari Davis and Derrick Tinsley are from Georgia and were rated No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in the Class of 2001. Cedric Houston is from Arkansas and was ranked No. 8 in the Class of 2001, while Gerald Riggs, of Chattanooga, was rated No. 3 in the Class of 2002. Williams is currently ranked the nation's No. 7 back by The Insiders. Of course, those rankings have done nothing to revive Tennessee's running game which hasn't produced a 1,000-yard rusher since Travis Stephens in 2001 and has finished in the bottom half of the SEC the last two seasons. The Vols beat out Oregon, Oregon State and North Carolina for Foster who cited Tennessee's tradition and the personal touch of assistant Trooper Taylor as key factors in his decision. "Vol running back coach Trooper Taylor came to see me at home yesterday," Foster said. "We actually didn't talk much about football. We talked mostly about who he is and his beliefs.

"He's everything I'm looking for in a coach. He's all about family and all about personal relationships."

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound tailback with 4.5 speed rushed for 2,097 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior at Mission Bay Senior High School in San Diego, Calif. He also hauled a remarkable six kickoffs back for TDs.

Foster, who bench presses 305 pounds and carries a 2.8 grade point average, can run inside or outside. He has good field vision, changes directions smoothly and hits holes quickly.

The last back Tennessee signed from California was Onterrio Smith, of Sacramento, in 1999. Smith also put up big numbers as a senior and was underrated. He was only at Tennessee one season before he being dismissed from the squad for violation of team rules. He went on to become a star at Oregon and the Vols haven't signed a back as talented since.

Now Tennessee fosters new hope for a flat running game.


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