Tailbacks: Vols can't thrive with five

Tennessee's use of five tailbacks -- Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis, Derrick Tinsley, Keldrick Williams and Gerald Riggs, Jr., -- in last Saturday's 44-7 blowout of Wyoming may prove to be a one-shot deal.

Running backs coach Woody McCorvey said five simply isn't a manageable number under normal circumstances. In fact, it's about two more than what he'd prefer.

''It'd be tough in some ballgames to play five guys,'' he said. ''It's not hard at all to play THREE guys because something's going to happen (injuries, fatigue, etc.).''

Tennessee's tailbacks offer a lot of variety. Davis is a 235-pound bruiser. Tinsley is a 190-pound speedster. Houston and Riggs fall somewhere in between. Williams, (5-10, 210) is a bowling ball type runner.

''Each one of them has their own strengths, and you want to put each guy in there when he can do what he does best,'' McCorvey said.

Houston got the starting nod last weekend and responded with 106 yards on just 10 carries. Asked if the performance surprised him, McCorvey shook his head.

''Not at all,'' he said. ''When you guys (media) see 'em in practice, we're always in situations where they don't have to run that far except in scrimmages. But I knew from watching him in high school that Ced had the speed to take it the distance. I think Jabari has that also. If you put a watch on them, I don't think there's much difference between them.''

McCorvey says Tinsley is probably the most natural runner among the backs. The second-most natural is Riggs, he adds, although he missed the chance for a big gainer in Game 1.

''The first time he carried the ball he had an opportunity to cut it back and he didn't see it,'' McCorvey said. ''If he had seen it, everybody would've seen what type of running back he really is because there was a big seam there. He just made the wrong cut.''

As Riggs becomes more familiar with UT's offense, he will be able to rely more on his superior running instincts.

''That comes with maturity, knowing where your block's coming from, making the right reads and all that,'' McCorvey said. ''But, when somebody on defense does something (wrong), you've got to be able to take advantage of that.''

For now, though, Houston and Davis are clearly Tennessee's top two tailbacks. Asked if combining them would produce the SEC's finest tailback, McCorvey smiled.

''I hope that's the way it turns out but I'm not going to say that,'' he said. ''Before the year's over, I think they're going to open up the eyes of a lot of people.''

When asked if Houston and Davis have a problem sharing the position, McCorvey raised an eyebrow.

''There better not be,'' he said. ''They know the importance of the position they play, and they know it's tough to go through a season without some nicks and nacks. They know they're going to need each other, and some of those other guys back there, too.''

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