Backs to the Future

With a new O.C. on The Hill and an amalgamation of systems in the offing, there are uncertainties aplenty surrounding UT's offense of the future, but if recruiting provides any insights, it's a good bet running backs will be in fashion next fall.

The Vols lose tailbacks Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty in 2009, but added Tauren Poole in December and have the promising Lennon Creer entering his sophomore season in September. Depth is good now but could get thin in a hurry come 2009.

Given the situation it wouldn't be surprising to see UT sign as many as three backs of assorted abilities to operate as feature backs, slot backs, fullbacks and change-of-pace backs. The ability of a back to both run and catch the ball increases his value dramatically for a team employing spread elements, as the Vols are expected to do.

Here are five backs from the Class of 2009 the Vols are known to have offered. It's not known if each of these prospects is viewed as a RB by UT's staff, but that's how they are viewed by RONNIE WINGO, 6-2, 210, 4.45, St. Louis University High in Missouri. All you really need to know about Mr. Wngo is that he's big enough to play linebacker, athletic enough to play corner and he's the reigning AAU 200-meter national champion. He rushed for 1,582 (7.7 ypc) and 17 TDs as a junior. His head coach Gary Kornfeld told Inside Mizzou editor Jeff Ermann. "Here's what I tell all of the college coaches: ‘He's a can't-miss.' If he's not the number one running back on your depth chart, he'll go to the other side of the ball and be the best cover corner in your program. He's such a great athlete. You don't see that too often." Missouri, Florida, Illinois and Tennessee are listed as the early favorites.

ALEX SINGLETON (Jr.), 5-11, 216, 4.6, East John High School, Reserve, La., is a likely fullback in college or he could move to linebacker. He ran for 1,507 yards and 22 touchdowns on 218 carries as a junior to earn Class 5A first team All-State honors. In a victory over Patterson he ran for 125 yards and two TDs and threw 38 yards for another score. In a victory over Carencro, Singleton rushed 26 times for 305 yards and 4 TDs of 66, 40, 35 and 2 yards. The Vols are also recruiting his high school teammate Patrick Lewis a 6-1, 290-pound guard. "Trooper Taylor saw Alex Singleton and Patrick Lewis and brought some film back to Philip Fulmer," East St. John head coach Larry Dautrieve told. "He called me when he got back and said that Fulmer wanted to be the first to offer both of them."

DESMOND SCOTT, 5-10, 179, Hillside High School, Durham, N.C. He caught 18 passes for 221 yards and added 271 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns in 42 attempts as a freshman. As a sophomore he rushed for 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those campaigns were played at Southern High. He has since transferred to Hillside. Last summer he received offers from South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Tennessee after attending their summer camps. Alabama has also extended an offer. The type of playmaker that should thrive in a spread attack.

David Oku,5-9, 175, 4.47, Carl Albert High School, Oklahoma City, Okla. What he lacks in size Oku makes up for with his explosive quickness, breakaway speed and juke-ability. An elusive back with superb skills he rushed he rushed for 1,628 yards and 20 TDs in 182 carries as a junior. He has offers from favorites Auburn, Florida State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Texas Tech. He's also interested in Oklahoma which has yet to offer.

Gabriel Hunter, 5-11, 190, 4.50, Kingsbury High School, Memphis, rushed for over 2,500 yards with 24 touchdowns in the regular season as a junior, including a state record-breaking performance against Munford in which he amassed 436 yards and five touchdowns, earning USA Today/Max Preps National Player of the Year honors. The week before he ran for 375 yards and four touchdowns against Memphis Raleigh-Eygpt. Memphis, Mississippi, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have extended offers, but the interest is widespread as the battle for his scintillating services could become more national than regional.

Just as a guess, Tennessee would be happy to commit Wingo and Hunter and call it a great year for running backs.

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