Forget Bigfoot

While thousands of outdoor enthusiasts comb remote wooded areas in search of Bigfoot, Tennessee's running backs coach is more concerned with finding Hotfoot.

"During the course of a game there's a natural rotation," Stan Drayton said this week, "but whoever gets the hot foot stays in the game."

Whereas quarterback coaches often refer to a guy who is passing well as having "the hot hand," Drayton refers to a guy who is running well as having "the hot foot." Trying to determine which Vol has the hottest foot is quite a chore this fall, since each of the top four tailbacks appears capable of developing toasted toes at any moment.

"There's only one football out there at a time," Drayton noted, "and right now those guys don't want to come off the field."

Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson conceded that the Vols are blessed at tailback, noting: "We have four backs that we have great confidence in."

The first-team tailback, senior Arian Foster, is coming off a 2007 season which saw him run for 1,193 yards and catch 39 passes. He also excels as a pass protector.

"Arian is very multi-dimensional," Clawson noted, "and can do a lot of different things."

Pushing Foster is junior Montario Hardesty, a 210-pounder who runs more like a 250-pounder.

"Montario is probably our hard-hat guy – the most physical guy," Clawson said.

Sophomore Lennon Creer isn't as versatile as Foster or as powerful as Hardesty but he's more of a breakaway threat than either of them.

"I'm not sure that Lennon doesn't give us the best opportunity for the big play," Clawson said.

The success of Foster (263 yards, 5.6 per carry), Hardesty (144 yards, 4.2 per carry, 4 touchdowns) and Creer (116 yards, 8.9 per carry) has left precious little playing time for freshman Tauren Poole, although he has shown flashes in limited action.

"Unfortunately, Tauren is a little bit of the odd-man-out right now – not because of ability but because those other guys have more experience," Clawson said. "If we had an injury or two, Tauren would be right in there, as well."

Given how well Tennessee's top four tailbacks are playing, their position coach is understandably pleased.

"I think we're on track," Drayton said. "Those guys are proving to be good playmakers. They're playing on contact, they're breaking tackles and not making many mental mistakes. From that standpoint, we're right on track."

Getting all four tailbacks on track is one thing; getting all four on the field is a whole different challenge.

"There's a time and place for all of them," Drayton said. "Right now the beauty of my position is that those guys are patient and they're waiting for their time."

In the meantime, Drayton is eagerly waiting for the next Hotfoot sighting.

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