Runnin' for the record

Coming off a 1,193-yard rushing performance in 2007, he seemed a lock to get the 685 yards needed in '08 to become Tennessee's all-time rushing leader.

After carrying just three times for three yards last weekend at Georgia, however, senior Arian Foster is less than halfway home (337 yards) with the season halfway complete.

Currently averaging 56.8 yards through the first six games, he must average 58.0 yards through the last six to break Travis Henry's school record of 3,078 career yards. That will be tough to achieve if Foster continues averaging just 11 carries per game, as he has to date.

Although he has stopped granting interviews, Foster reportedly is handling his reduced role surprisingly well.

"He's fine. He's been phenomenal; he really has," Vol running backs coach Stan Drayton said this week. "He's not complaining. He's stepped up in a leadership role in that way."

With the offense sputtering, Tennessee tailbacks combined for a mere 11 carries last weekend in Athens. Second-teamer Montario Hardesty (6) got twice as many of those as Foster and third-teamer Lennon Creer (2) got just one less. Given that Foster is coming off a 1,000-yard season and closing in on a UT milestone, three carries would seem to be insulting. Maybe not, though.

"He says he's in a room surrounded by a bunch of good backs," Drayton said. "He's on the same page. He believes that everybody should have an opportunity to play. He's been good with it."

Foster rushed for 96 yards in Game 1 at UCLA and 100 yards in Game 2 vs. UAB. Since then, however, he has gained 37 yards (vs. Florida), 30 (at Auburn), 75 (vs. Northern Illinois) and 3 (at Georgia). The obvious question: What happened to the Vol ground attack in Games 3 through 6?

"We developed our mentality and our identity, then people started game-planning to stop the run," Drayton said. "When that happened, we didn't react well to compensate for that in the throw game. People kept loading the box and forcing us to throw the football. There are some areas we've got to get better in from that respect."

Vol quarterback Nick Stephens completed passes of 43 and 52 yards in Game 5 vs. Northern Illinois and uncorked a 60-yard bomb last Saturday vs. Georgia. A few more of those might make opponents think twice about overplaying the run.

"That helps," Drayton conceded. "All of a sudden people start to feel the threat of an explosive pass play and they can't load the box anymore. Then, all of a sudden, the run game opens up."

Disgusted with Tennessee's 2-4 overall record and 0-3 SEC mark, many Big Orange fans are ripping the Vols' offensive players. Even the tailbacks are being targeted, yet they seem to be holding up pretty well.

"We are sticking together," Drayton said. "These guys know that we have beat ourselves. We've been our toughest opponent. If we can just hone in, become disciplined in some areas and find a way to get a rhythm, we feel like we can beat anybody.

"We're very optimistic. We're not going to let anybody or anything drive a wedge between us and what we're trying to do. I've been real impressed with our guys in handling this adversity. We're going to grow from it."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories