Saturday's huge for RBs

The race for backup duty behind first-team Tennessee tailback Gerald Riggs is about to heat up significantly.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will be closely monitoring Saturday's full-scale scrimmage as redshirt freshmen Arian Foster and Ja'Kouri Williams, true freshmen Montario Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker and junior walk-on David Yancey continue their five-man battle for the No. 2 spot.

What exactly will Sanders be looking for?

"Obviously, you're looking for guys who get north and south, don't dance around too much," the coordinator said following Friday's practice. "Running backs aren't real hard to evaluate. If they're hard to tackle, they're usually pretty good. If they go down pretty easy, they're usually not as good. It's almost as simple as that."

Naturally, ball security is crucial. Gaining 10 yards but losing the ball is a sure way to fall from favor.

"Their assignments, their footwork and their reads may not all be perfect," Sanders said, "but I do expect them to hang onto the football and be hard to tackle."

Historically, problems with pass protection kept good backs on the UT bench early in their careers. Sanders says Hardesty and Coker are picking up the protection schemes adequately, however.

"They seem to be doing pretty well," he said. "I'm pleased with what they've done so far. They're not perfect with it and they're not where they need to be but they're pretty far along for this stage of practice."

With Riggs limited to a few scrimmage carries, the Vols' young backs will get plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents. Thus, Saturday could go a long way toward determining the pecking order at tailback.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer put it this way: "I hope we come out of the scrimmage with a better idea who our second and third tailbacks are -- guys who can produce."

The head man went on to characterize the race for backup duty behind Riggs as "close … very close. There's no clear-cut guy. There's been flashes by all of them. We're just looking for that consistency."


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