Who'll follow Foster?

Arian Foster proved last fall that he's quite capable of being a feature back at the collegiate level, averaging 148 yards per game in his five season-ending starts. He can't make every carry of every game in 2006, however, so someone needs to emerge as a quality backup.

Montario Hardesty, LaMarcus Coker, Ja'Kouri Williams and David Yancey are the leading candidates.

Hardesty wowed UT coaches with his potential last August and September, then tore an ACL in Game 4. He was held out of Tuesday night's scrimmage because his surgically repaired knee buckled, so he's still something of a question mark for '06.

Coker also showed some flashes as a freshman last August but nagging injuries forced him to redshirt. He missed spring practice following shoulder surgery but turned some heads with his play in Tuesday night's scrimmaging.

"He's really fast," first-year running backs coach Kurt Roper said. "Coker is a fast athlete that can make plays. He ran behind his pads pretty good and did some good things in pass protection. He was impressive."

Phillip Fulmer liked what he saw, as well.

"Coker did a nice job," the head man said, pausing before adding: "Coker actually did a VERY good job in the scrimmage."

Coker missed some work since the scrimmage with a shin bruise, however, so his durability may be a bit of a concern.

Williams' scrimmage performance was his finest since becoming a Vol three years ago, according to Fulmer. Perhaps the speedy Louisiana native is finally ready to bid for significant playing time.

Yancey isn't especially big (5-8, 198) or fast but he's an instinctive runner with some nifty moves. The questions with him concern his ability to pass protect and to provide a big-play dimension.

Roper has no idea who the No. 2 tailback will be but he's happy with the effort put forth by the contenders during the first week of preseason drills.

"I've been pleased with the start, been pleased with the effort, pleased with the attitude," he said. "I think it's a competitive situation, and I think they're all taking advantage of it by working hard."


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