JaKouri steps up

Offensive highlights were few and far between in Tennessee's Saturday football scrimmage but one of them clearly was the performance of a forgotten tailback.

Speedy JaKouri Williams led all rushers with 55 yards on 11 carries. He gained 13 yards on his first attempt and had a 12-yard burst later in the workout that would've been longer except for a downfield penalty.

"I wanted to come out and make a statement," said Williams, a 5-10, 190-pound sophomore from Plaquemine, La. "But there's always room for improvement."

Asked what he must do to "make a statement" this spring, Williams replied: "Just come out and make plays, use my ability the best I can. A lot of these guys are bigger than me, but if I use my speed and quickness to separate myself from other guys there should be a place on the field for me."

There's certainly a place on the field for him at present. That's because three of UT's top tailbacks – Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker – are missing spring practice recovering from offseason surgeries. Williams is getting plenty of practice reps with that trio sidelined.

"It's a very big opportunity for me," he said. "Once fall comes it's going to be a crowded backfield again, so I feel I need to make a statement now, so when fall comes around I'll still be in the mix."

Williams was the only Vol running back to enjoy much success on Saturday. David Yancey gained 27 yards on 10 carries and Ricardo Kemp added 27 on 13 rushes.

The quarterbacks weren't terribly productive, either, although their numbers were skewed by a bunch of dropped passes. Erik Ainge completed just 13 of 31 throws for 102 yards. Jonathan Crompton was 11 of 20 for 94 yards and Bo Hardegree was 5 of 10 for 88 yards.

Appearances to the contrary, Williams thinks the offensive unit is making progress this spring.

"We're improving, he said. "A lot of guys know what we need to do to get to the level we're trying to get to. The line's getting better, the backs are getting better. The quarterbacks were making great calls and the receivers were making great blocks on all my runs. Without them, none of them plays would've been there."

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