Arian may be workhorse

Based on the uneven quarterback play in Saturday's scrimmage, Tennessee may have to rely heavily on its ground game this fall. That means this could be a very busy season for the Vols' No. 1 tailback.

"The running game's always important," sophomore Arian Foster said recently. "When you can't run the ball you can't throw the ball, and when you can't throw the ball you can't run the ball. They complement each other. You can't do one without the other. We (tailbacks) have got a responsibility to the quarterback and receivers to get the running game going."

The backs fulfilled that responsibility in Scrimmage No. 1. David Yancey carried 8 times for 66 yards, including a 28-yard burst. Ja'Kouri Williams carried 8 times for 43 yards. LaMarcus Coker showed great acceleration on an 11-yard touchdown play after catching a flat pass. Foster, running primarily against first-team defenders, looked good in producing 37 yards on 11 carries.

Foster was outstanding in 2005, rushing for 879 yards despite just four starts. Still, he should be significantly better in 2006. He's stronger, faster, healthier and smarter than last fall. In watching film of last season's games he sees cutback lanes he missed and holes he should've hit quicker.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "There's always things at any level – even playing for an NFL team – where you can assess a run and say, ‘I could've done this or that.' You just try to analyze yourself because that's what it's all about."

Foster carried 40 times for 223 yards last November in Game 10 against Vanderbilt. He probably will average 25 carries per game this season. He believes he's up to the task, although his busiest high school game saw him carry just "28 to 30" times. He remembers that game well.

"I was a little fatigued," he recalled. "I was a little skinnier in high school, so I wasn't out of breath as much."

Coming off knee and shoulder surgeries that caused him to miss spring practice, Foster is a little rusty these days. He's working very hard to be ready for '06.

"I didn't go home this summer," he said. "Coming off two surgeries I felt I had to do everything I could do to get myself in the condition I'm in right now. I'm 100 percent. I'm actually a little stronger than I was last year.

"It was a very important off-season for me because I had two surgeries. I felt like I put myself in position where I'm in the best condition of my life. I feel like that's going to pay off."

Unless Tennessee's quarterback play becomes more consistent, it had better pay off handsomely.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories