1-2 punch at tailback

Just as two heads are better than one, two backs are better than one ... but only if they complement one another.

That's why head football coach Lane Kiffin hopes to find a bruiser and a blazer to share Tennessee's tailback job. That kind of 1-2 punch produced a national title when he was offensive coordinator at Southern Cal, with 240-pound LenDale White playing the role of bruiser and Reggie Bush serving as the blazer.

"The most perfect setup is what we had at SC for a while – to have a really fast guy and to have a really big guy," Kiffin said. "Then you have a guy who can pound 'em and a guy who can play with flash, like those two guys. I think that's the best-case scenario that everybody would like to have probably."

The thought of a tailback tandem similar to the Bush-White duo certainly appeals to Jim Chaney, Tennessee's new offensive coordinator.

"I'd love to have that – a big, powerful guy and a super-fast guy to score from anywhere," Chaney said. "That'd be great. Ideally, that'd be a perfect world.

"To hit the defense with a different set of tempos from the tailback position ... I think that's important to do, without any question. It's better than having two big ones or two little ones. You like to change the tempo and rhythm with which you approach the defense."

Tennessee won a national title using a down-sized version of the White-Bush tailback tandem in 1998 – Travis Henry (5-10, 220) being the power back and Travis Stephens (5-9, 185) being the speed back.

The 2009 Vols lack a LenDale White-type bruiser. Their biggest tailbacks are mid-term freshman Toney Williams (6-0, 218) and rising senior Montario Hardesty (6-0, 212). The latter is reluctant to be labeled strictly a power runner, however.

"I really don't think I'm a power back," Hardesty said. "I'm going to run with power but I really don't think I'm just a power back. I want to be the starting running back coming out of spring, though, so whatever the philosophy is that gets me on the field, I'm going to be ready to do it."

Tennessee has no Reggie Bush clone running around campus, either, although rising junior Lennon Creer, rising sophomore Tauren Poole and incoming freshman David Oku have above-average speed.

The 2008 Vol staff was criticized for splitting the tailback carries among Hardesty, Creer and Arian Foster, since none of the three ever seemed to find a rhythm. Whether the '09 staff settles on one guy, two guys or another committee approach remains to be seen.

"I'm never going to set a limitation on that," Kiffin said. "We may have one guy that takes all the carries or we may split it up three ways. We're going to do whatever it takes to win, so we've got to figure that out."

There's a good chance the new coach will use situational tailbacks, with down and distance determining who's in the lineup.

"Some guys will do different things better, so there will come a point where we use guys for certain things they do really well," Kiffin said. "If one guy's far and above everybody else, we'll use one guy."


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