Rating RB Field

Because Tennessee's prospects at tailback are so bright its prospects in the current recruiting campaign at that high-profile position are less so, but given the value of birds in the hand that's probably a good thing.

With four-star talents Lennon Creer and Savion Frazier arriving with such promising signees as Daryl Vereen, Dennis Rogan and Josh Hawkins, and joining such proven veterans as Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty there is plenty of talent, diversity and depth to have a strong ground game. That's assuming there is room to run.

While the returning veterans have each had their games none is an established star at this point. Foster flirted with a 1,000-yard season as a redshirt freshman, but was saddled with injuries and a suspension last year. Coker had big runs in the style of a Jay Graham, but also fought through physical setbacks and never quite found consistency.

Creer has the speed to turn the corner along with the quickness and toughness to attack between the tackles. He is an electrifying open field runner with scintillating change-of-direction skills. He could contend for early playing time, but may need a year to add strength and learn the system.

Seeing that the Vols aren't scheduled to lose any of their current running backs urgency isn't driving their efforts. That doesn't mean UT is sitting out the competition for high potential tailback prospects. In fact, Tennessee has a soft verbal from Tauren Poole of Toccoa, Ga., who rushed for 1,350 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior. He is also revisiting offers from Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina, Maryland and Vanderbilt before firming up his commitment. Georgia Tech is a contender that hasn't offered.

Beyond Poole the Vols focus appears on Chris Jordan of Brentwood who is rated No. 17 nationally, No. 18 Darrius Willis of Indianapolis, Ind., No. 23 LaMarr Thomas of Fort Washington, Md., and No. 25 Michael Shaw of Trotwood, Ohio. Here's the skinny on these mail carriers.

Chris Jordan: A power back with good speed (4.50) and size 6-2, 205. Some scouts feel he has more potential at linebacker, but his ability to break tackles and gain yardage inside will probably keep him on offense. An excellent second effort runner he needs to improve as a blocker. Tennessee is thought to trail Alabama and Clemson for his commitment. Prognosis: Fair.

Darius Willis: Amassed 1,277 yards and 15 touchdowns in 231 carries as a junior at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis last season. Speed (4.4) is his calling card. He ran a 10.8 time in the 100 meters this spring. UT hasn't offered and he appears to favor midwest programs Purdue, Notre Dame, Indiana and Illinois. The Vols have yet to offer. Prognosis: Poor.

Lamaar Thomas: A lighter, faster back than Willis he checks in at 5-11, 180, and clocks a 10.30 time in the 100 meters. A versatile performer he gained 688 yards and scored five touchdowns in just 61 carries for Fort Washington High School in Friendly, Md., last season, after compiling over 800 yards in 42 attempts as a sophomore. He also caught a combined 32 passes for 589 yards those seasons and was a standout on special teams. He currently favors Illinois and has offers from Florida, Maryland, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio State and Tennessee. Prognosis: Poor.

Michael Shaw: Regarded as one of the best running backs in the midwest he checks in at No. 10 overall in Ohio. Led Kettering Archbishop Alter to the Division III state title last fall with just under 1000 yards and 21 touchdowns in 180 carries. Listed at 6-0, 187 with 4.45 speed, he has since transferred to Trotwood-Madison High School and will get a lot of exposure as a senior. A hot prospect and honor student with offers from Clemson, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Tennessee. The Vols got in early on him and Ohio State is currently out of the picture, but competition is still plenty tough. Prognosis: Fair.

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