Walk-on to watch

It seems to happen just about every year. An obscure walk-on running back distinguishes himself in Tennessee's spring scrimmages, then disappears in the fall when the regular season arrives.

David Yancey filled this role in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Now he has passed the torch to Roy Olasimbo. But things could be different this time. Really.

Olasimbo is a 5-10, 195-pound senior who began his college career at Alabama State. Blessed with surprising power, he carried 15 times for 50 yards in Tennessee's first spring scrimmage, seven times for 23 yards in the second and seven times for 114 yards (with a 75-yard burst) in the Orange & White game.

Olasimbo's cumulative spring stats – 29 rushes, 187 yards, a 6.4 yards-per-carry average – were better than those compiled by scholarship backs Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty. Still, he won't be carrying the football in September, October and November.

Like Yancey, Olasimbo is a tad smaller and a step slower than the scholarship running backs. However, he has a feature that may enable him to see the field in the fall – versatility. Tough as a pine knot, he projects to be a significant contributor on special teams.

"Roy Olasimbo had a really good spring," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said recently. "He's a guy who's working his way onto the bus when it comes time to leave and play a ball game. He can play there (running back) and he can play on special teams. You can never have enough of those athletes."

Olasimbo's impressive spring performances also caught the eye of the Vols' head man.

"He's kind of our ace in the hole," Phillip Fulmer said. "He a senior walk-on, and it's a shame he doesn't have more time left. I do think he will help us this year. He's a big, strong, tough guy and just a wonderful young man."

Even with a good spring, Olasimbo stands No. 4 on UT's depth chart at running back. He'll be challenged to hold that spot when scholarship freshmen Lennon Creer, Daryl Vereen, Dennis Rogan and Josh Hawkins show up for preseason drills in August.

"We've got some talented running backs, and I'm excited about those guys," Fulmer conceded. "And we've got a couple of guys coming in that should create even more competition, so we're encouraged."

With all of the rushing talent on hand, it's a safe bet that Roy Olasimbo won't be getting meaningful carries for Tennessee this fall. But that's OK. Right now, he's just concerned with getting on the bus.


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