Top FBs, picks 1-5

Some fullbacks can block. Some fullbacks can run. Some fullbacks can catch. A few excel in at least two of these three areas. They're special. I think the five I've settled on as Tennessee's best between 1964 and 2004 are special.

Here they are:

5. GREG AMSLER: Though stuck behind Roland Poles, Amsler got 180 career carries and picked up 656 career yards. He rushed for 213 yards as a sophomore (1988), with 121 of those coming in a game against Kentucky. He tacked on 184 yards as a junior ('89) and 196 as a senior ('90). The 6-2, 235-pound New Jersey product was quick enough to occasionally fill in at tailback, especially in late-game, ball-control situations. He also excelled as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 23 passes for 244 yards in '89 and 20 for 185 in '90.

4. ROLAND POLES: A superior blocker, this 6-foot, 250-pounder combined with Amsler to give Tennessee its best 1-2 fullback punch of modern times. Starting in 1989 and '90, Poles rushed 44 times for 163 yards as a junior and 37 times for 144 yards as a senior. He finished his career with 114 carries for 425 yards, plus 17 receptions for another 170 yards.

3. RICHARD PICKENS: A starter in 1966, '67 and '68, Pickens primarily opened holes for Charlie Fulton, Walter Chadwick and Richmond Flowers. As a senior, however, he led the Vols with 736 yards and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. He recorded three 100-yard rushing performances during his career, including 122-yard efforts against LSU (1967) and Ole Miss ('68).

2. SHAWN BRYSON: Starting in 1997 and '98, Bryson's greatest attribute was his versatility. He packed just 225 pounds on his 6-1frame but he was a determined blocker who helped Jamal Lewis lead the SEC in rushing as a freshman in '97. A fine ball-carrier, Bryson averaged 9.5 yards per attempt as a senior (21 rushes, 200 yards), breaking a 58-yard run vs. Kentucky and a crucial 57-yard TD burst against Florida. His career numbers: 505 yards on 91 carries and 484 more on 50 career receptions. He helped UT win the national title as a senior, then went on to to enjoy a solid NFL career.

1. WILLIAM HOWARD: A two-year starter at fullback (1985 and '87), this bullish 6-1, 235-pounder often was used as a fourth-quarter tailback against weary opposing defenses. Howard carried a school-record 16 consecutive times in this capacity in a 1986 defeat of Ole Miss at Jackson. Afterward, Vol guard Harry Galbreath mused: "Sometimes, you just gotta get out of the way and let the big dog eat." Howard led all Vol rushers with 787 yards that fall, posting three 100-yard games – 184 vs. Mississippi State, 158 vs. Vanderbilt and 110 vs. Texas-El Paso. He could block, too.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories