Three backs better than one?

Arian Foster split time with Gerald Riggs in 2005. Due to injuries, he split time with LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty in 2006. So, the prospect of splitting time with Coker and Hardesty again in 2007 is less than ideal.

But that's OK. Arian Foster will do whatever it takes to help Tennessee win football games this fall … even if that means sharing carries with two other tailbacks.

"The good thing about that situation is that we're all good friends," says Foster, a 6-1, 225-pound junior. "It's not like there's any dissension or any kind of controversy. We're all real good friends and hang out off the field."

Coker is the burner, having popped runs of 89 yards (vs. Marshall) and 87 yards (vs. Vanderbilt) last season. Hardesty is the bruiser, having scoring touchdowns in each of his first four varsity games last fall. Foster may lack the speed of Coker and the power of Hardesty but he has great vision, sure hands out of the backfield and some nifty moves.

None of the Vol backs is likely to approach the yardage total of Arkansas's Darren McFadden this fall. Still, they should put up some pretty good numbers as a group.

"I feel like we're one of the best backfields in the nation," Foster says. "It's real hard with a three-back rotation – not everyone's going to get their reps and the statistics aren't going to be there – but we produce. That's our main goal … to produce."

Naturally, Foster would love to be the clear-cut No. 1 tailback. He'd love to start every game and finish every game. He'd love to get 25 carries per game. But he's willing to accept a different role if that's what the coaches decide is best for the team.

"You always try to set yourself some statistical goals but that's all to accomplish the greater goal of winning," he says. "As an athlete, I think you should set goals for yourself because you put so much time and energy into it. But, as the years go by, that means less and less."

Even splitting time with Coker and Hardesty, Foster should get a decent number of carries this fall. Head coach Phillip Fulmer and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe insist the Vols will be more committed to the running game this season. That kind of talk brings a smile to the face of Arian Foster.

"If the coaches made that commitment, then I'm happy with it," he says." That's what I came here for – to run the ball. Our linemen are a great group of guys and they're working hard, so we can't wait."

As reported earlier, Foster has a photo of his Outback Bowl fumble against Penn State taped to his locker.

"I've got it and a couple more motivational images in my locker," he explains, "and I make sure I look at it every single day."

When asked why, he softly replied:

"So I don't forget it, and it won't happen again."


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