'Crowded house'

The forgotten man of Tennessee's tailback corps made sure he was remembered in Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason.

Speedy senior Ja'Kouri Williams showed a nice burst on his first carry, blasting through a hole at left tackle for an eight-yard gain. Moments later, he bounced outside for a 13-yard pickup. Twenty-one yards on two carries is pretty strong ... especially for a guy who ranks No. 5 on the tailback depth chart behind senior Arian Foster, junior Montario Hardesty, sophomore Lennon Creer and freshman Tauren Poole.

Williams finished Saturday's scrimmage with seven carries for 37 yards, matching the yardage compiled by Hardesty (21 yards on 8 carries), Poole (11 on 9) and Creer (5 on 9) on a combined 26 carries.

If Williams continues to impress and Hardesty continues to stay healthy, Tennessee might consider redshirting Poole, even though the 5-10, 200-pound speedster from Toccoa, Ga., clearly has SEC-caliber ability.

"He's a good football player," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said, "and somehow, some way we have to make sure we have a role for him. But it's a crowded house (due to the talent at tailback)."

Foster, withheld from the scrimmage due to a minor leg injury, is coming off a 1,193-yard rushing performance in 2007. He needs just 685 yards this fall to become Tennessee's all-time rushing leader. He's also a superior receiver out of the backfield, having caught 39 passes last fall.

Hardesty, whose career has been decimated by injuries, seems to be a capable back on those rare occasions when he is in peak health. He caught just three passes for 25 yards in 2007 but nearly matched those numbers in Saturday's scrimmage, catching three balls for 22 yards.

Creer averaged a team-best 5.9 yards per carry last fall and has been compared to former Vol superstar Chuck Webb by no less an expert than UT head coach Phillip Fulmer.

Poole showed superior running instincts last spring and exhibited soft hands on Saturday, catching two passes for 22 yards.

All of which may leave JaKouri Williams as the odd-man out. Most likely, his contributions in 2008 will be limited to the kick-return and kick-coverage teams.

"We have four guys ... I mean, it's a good problem," Clawson said. "I think it will help us on special teams."

Foster, Hardesty, Creer and Poole are similar in some ways but different in others. Clawson believes that will provide some offensive flexibility this fall.

"Each of them do things a little bit different," the coordinator said. "Right now Arian and Montario are 1-2 but those other guys certainly are very, very talented and doing things."

Clawson conceded that trying to divide a limited number of carries among so many capable backs will make for "some hard decisions," unless the NCAA decides to add a fifth quarter to games this season.

"I wish," he mused, "we could play 120 snaps in a game."

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