Vols find third running back

The hunt for a third running back at Tennessee might be over.

Lennon Creer, a true freshman from Tatum, Texas, who was snubbed by the nearby Texas Longhorns, has been outstanding in two major scrimmages.

Creer led the Vols with 84 yards on 11 carries in the first scrimmage and had 57 yards on 11 carries in the second scrimmage.

Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe has been impressed with Creer, who is trying to land a spot on the travel roster with LaMarcus Coker out on indefinite suspension.

``He's a good football player,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He's been pretty consistent. That's been good to see.

``I like his strength. I like his toughness. I certainly like his ability to hit another gear. He's still got to learn when he can bounce (outside). I want him to get downhill, north and south over and over.''

Kurt Roper, running backs coach, also is high on Creer.

``I've been pleased with how he runs the ball,'' Roper said. ``He's tough, he's physical, he knows how to fight for the extra yards. He knows how to run with good body lean and behind his pads. He's picking up the system. He has good hands. He has a lot of speed. I think he fits our mold at tailback well.''

Backup running back Montario Hardesty had his best scrimmage with 30 yards on five carries.

``I told him he looks like a track athlete,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He's so much faster. He's happy because he's healthy. I don't think people realized how much Montario Hardesty has hurt since he's been here. It's been one trouble after another.''

Hardesty has suffered a torn ACL, had cartilage damage, had two surgeries, had fluid buildup which caused his knee to be drained and he's incurred swelling.

``I think Montario feels healthy for the first time since I've been here,'' Cutcliffe said.

Roper said Hardesty is pain free. Even though he's been banged up, Hardesty was the only back available for all 13 games last season.

``He's tough,'' Roper said. ``He's a physical guy who can fight through a lot of discomfort. So I try to take care of him as much as anything because I want him as healthy as possible because of his talent.''

Hardesty said the road to recovery wasn't smooth.

``It's been frustrating,'' Hardesty said. ``I'd never had an injury before. I expect to play well, make some big runs and help this team win.''

Hardesty knows the Vols must improve on last year's rushing totals.

``One hundred and eight won't work,'' Hardesty said. ``We want to be at the top of the SEC in rushing.''


Cutcliffe likes what he's seen out of four offensive linemen.

``We're doing some good things,'' Cutcliffe said of the blockers. ``I thought when we did run it (during the second scrimmage) we ran it pretty well. That's encouraging.

``I've said this the last week and a half, we've got four guys playing pretty darn well. I'm anxious to see how the fifth, sixth and seventh played with the ones and twos to evaluate who's game ready.''

A third major scrimmage today might tell the tale.

The four Cutcliffe likes are tackles Eric Young and Ramon Foster, left guard Anthony Parker and center Josh McNeil.

Chris Scott, moved from right tackle to right guard, is in danger of losing a starting spot. Jacques McClendon appears to be next in line. The Vols also have Ramone Johnson, Vlad Richard and Darius Myers in the rotation.


McClendon, the strongest player on the team, said he feels he's progressing daily.

``Coach says I've got to be more consistent,'' McClendon said. ``Once I knock out those consistency flaws, I think I'll be ready to go.''

McClendon said he knows the offense. He just needs to be more of a technician.

``I know the assignments,'' he said. ``I'm great with the playbook. But sometimes my technique won't get it done.''

McClendon said he wasn't bothered when right guard Foster was moved to right tackle and Scott to right guard, ahead of McClendon. Some figured if Scott were struggling at tackle, McClendon would be promoted to the first unit. He did start the Outback Bowl against Penn State.

``All I can do is come out and play,'' McClendon said. ``That (who starts) is up to the coaches. I can't worry about that.''

Fulmer said he's hopeful McClendon will emerge.

``He'll give you four real good plays, but then mess up the fifth one,'' Fulmer said.

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