Creer, Vereen running No. 2

They spent Saturday running wild. Now they're running second team.

Tennessee running backs coach Kurt Roper liked what he saw of freshmen Lennon Creer (11 carries, 84 yards) and Daryl Vereen (13 carries, 41 yards) in Saturday's scrimmage so much he has them bracketed with the second team this week.

"They're physical kids," Roper said following Tuesday's evening practice. "They don't shy away from contact at all. They've got a lot of toughness, a lot of ability to run the football. You see speed from both of them. You see natural body lean from both of them and the ability to make plays."

Junior Arian Foster and sophomore Montario Hardesty are splitting the tailback repetitions with the Vols' No. 1 offense.

Because Tennessee regularly utilizes its backs as pass receivers, good hands are absolutely essential. No problem, Roper says.

"I think they have really good hands," he said of Creer and Vereen. "The passing game is so detailed. It goes from protection to correct route to catching the football, there's a process we're trying to put together for them. But, yes, they can catch the football."

Tennessee gave most of the carries in 2006 to three tailbacks – Foster, Hardesty and LaMarcus Coker. Roper isn't sure he'll narrow the field to three this fall.

"You start trying to make decisions on who's the closest to game ready if you possibly can," he said, "but is three enough? You never think so."

Roper described Foster and Hardesty as "game ready," but added that he'd like to get both of the freshmen to that point, as well.

"We feel like we need more than just three," the Vol aide said.

In addition to the first four, senior walk-on Roy Olasimbo is inching ever closer to earning "a seat on the bus" thanks to his ability to play special teams and serve as an emergency back.

"Last year (David) Yancey was our ace in the hole, that 4 (fourth-teamer) who, with very limited reps, could go out there and execute anything we had," Roper said. "That's been Roy this year."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories