Trooper applauds Coker

Tennessee running backs coach Trooper Taylor stopped short of saying speedy freshman LaMarcus Coker moved into the No. 2 tailback slot with his performance in Saturday night's scrimmage. But he didn't stop FAR short.

"LaMarcus Coker really helped himself," Taylor said, literally beaming. "I really like what he did tonight."

The Vol aide's fascination with Coker's quickness was obvious after he watched the heralded rookie rush 12 times for a scrimmage-high 34 yards and turn a short pass into a 17-yard gain.

"Speed. You all (media) saw what he did," Taylor said. "He catches a little hitch, then turns up the field and gets going. That's pretty good."

The only negative was that Coker coughed up the ball once. Taylor said fumbles weigh heavily in determining the pecking order and playing time at tailback.

"It's like watching baseball," the Vol aide noted. "A guy hits the ball to the fence but a guy goes up and catches it. Hell, it looked pretty off the bat but it's still a long fly-out."

With redshirt freshman JaKouri Williams sidelined by a sore knee and true freshman Montario Hardesty limited to one carry by a deep-thigh bruise, Saturday night's scrimmage became a showcase for the three healthy backs bidding to back up Gerald Riggs – Coker, redshirt freshman Arian Foster and junior David Yancey.

Foster had a solid scrimmage (nine carries, 23 yards) but did nothing that stood out. Like Coker, he fumbled once, but Foster's was ruled to have been after he hit the ground. Asked if Foster did enough to solidify the No. 2 job, Taylor shook his head.

"No, not enough," he said. "I'm going to go (check the film and) see what LaMarcus did. Again, I think LaMarcus really helped himself tonight. I'm excited about grading the film."

Yancey carried six times for nine yards, getting smothered in the backfield several times.

Taylor clearly was disappointed that the thigh bruise kept Hardesty from showcasing his skills Saturday night.

"He had it coming in," the Vol aide said. "The kid is tough. He tried to go but got hit right on it right off the bat, so he checked himself out of the game."

There's still two weeks till the Sept. 3 opener but missing the scrimmage surely hurt Hardesty's and Williams' chances to be the No. 2 tailback on opening day.

"Montario and JaKouri are both set back," Taylor said. "I tell ‘em ‘You can't make the club in the tub (whirlpool bath).' You've got to take the guys into battle who have been out there doing it (in practice)."

Riggs carried just two times for 19 yards. He burst 14 yards on his first rush of the scrimmage and looked quicker than at any time last season.

"He made me look like a good coach there for a little while, didn't he?" Taylor noted. "He's sharp, he's on top of it."

Prior to the scrimmage Taylor gave Riggs a green jersey to wear, designating him as a player not to be tackled. Riggs was having none of that.

"I tried to put him in a green jersey," Taylor said, "but he threw it back in my office. I guess he sent a statement to me."

With his scrimmage showing, LaMarcus Coker apparently sent one, too.

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