Anderson No. 2 tailback?

With Gerald Riggs coming off a 1,000-yard rushing performance in 2004, you figured tailback would be the last position embroiled in a controversy this preseason. But the battle for the No. 2 job continues to be a source of considerable debate and speculation.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer added more fuel to the fire this week. When asked which of the backup candidates – junior David Yancey, redshirt freshmen Arian Foster and Ja'Kouri Williams, true freshman LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty – would be first off the bench, "None of the above" was essentially the reply.

"Right now I think we've got one good tailback (Riggs) and a committee," Fulmer said, subsequently adding: "Really, our second-team tailback right now is probably Cory Anderson if we went in and played today."

Surely, the head coach isn't serious. Anderson, the Vols' 6-3, 275-pound fullback, carried the ball five times in 2004 and twice in three full-scale scrimmages this preseason. He hardly supplies the dynamic running threat needed to keep opposing defenses honest.

Most likely, Fulmer's comment about Anderson being the second option at tailback was meant to motivate the other candidates. The coach subsequently backed off the statement a bit, suggesting that one or more of the legitimate tailback prospects will step into the role in time for the Vols' Sept. 3 opener.

"Those guys are going to play themselves through it," he said. "I've seen Coker get tougher and I've seen some good things from Foster. Unfortunately, Hardesty and Ja'Kouri haven't been out there (due to injuries)."

Based on stats from the three major scrimmages, Foster seems clearly ahead in the race for the No. 2 job. He carried four times for 54 yards in scrimmage 1, nine times for 23 yards in scrimmage 2 and 10 times for 53 yards in scrimmage 3. That's 23 rushes for 130 yards and a sparkling 5.7 yards-per-carry average.

Statistically, at least, no other Vol tailback is close. Yancey has a 3.7 yards-per-carry average, based on 18 rushes for 66 yards. Williams carried four times for 13 yards in scrimmage 1 and missed the next two. His 3.3 yards-per-carry average is slightly ahead of Riggs' 3.2 mark (21 carries, 68 yards). Coker had a good second scrimmage but struggled in the first and third. As a result, he has just 63 yards on 31 attempts, a 2.3 yards-per-carry average. Hardesty, injured on his first carry of the second scrimmage, has rushed just five times for 2 net yards in limited action.

For what it's worth, Anderson's two carries netted 17 yards, so his per-carry average of 8.5 is tops on the team. Still, no one really expects him to be UT's No. 2 tailback in Game 1. Not even Fulmer, his earlier comment notwithstanding.

As the head man surmised: "I believe those other guys will come out of the pack eventually."


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