'Cramming' for the final

When Tennessee running backs coach Eddie Gran yells "Cram it" this spring, he is not suggesting that one of his tailbacks insert the football into a place where the sun never shines.

In Gran's vocabulary, to "cram it" means to forcefully plant your foot and abruptly cut upfield toward the goal line. Vol tailbacks did a bang-up job of this in Saturday's scrimmage. That's why mid-term freshman Toney Williams gained 84 yards on 14 carries and sophomore Tauren Poole added 81 on 14 tries.

"It was a lot better than it's been," Gran said. "Sticking a foot in the ground – we call it cramming it – is what we need ... three yards and a cloud of dust. We've got to get that ball north and south with no lost yardage."

Rising senior Montario Hardesty made just 29 yards on 10 rushing attempts Saturday but still made his position coach happy.

"Montario did a good job of getting the ball north and south," Gran said. "We talk about cramming it, and he did that a lot better."

The Vol aide was thrilled with the productivity of the two younger tailbacks, except for a couple of fumbles by Poole.

"Tauren recovered after his two fumbles ... came back and made a couple of plays after that," Gran noted. "That's what we're looking for: Can you recover after you do something wrong?

"But it's unacceptable to put the ball on the ground ... period ... the end. That we have to fix immediately."

As for Williams, he seems to get better each time he takes the field.

As Gran put it: "Him being really just a senior in high school right now, to see him keep growing is exciting."

Williams ripped off runs of 41, 14 and 11 yards during the scrimmage. Poole had gains of 19, 15, 21 and 14 yards. Each was stopped in his tracks several times for losses and no-gains, however.

"That comes from not being technique-sound," Gran said. "You've got to finish and you've got to be perfect every time. That's what we'll work on as an offense ... being more consistent."

Gran has coached some of the finest SEC tailbacks of the past 15 years, including Deuce McAllister of Ole Miss, plus Rudi Johnson, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown of Auburn. He's preaching the same sermon to Vol backs that he preached to those standouts.

"To get better, eliminate the mistakes, take care of the little things, find a way to compete and get better every single day in practice," Gran said. "It doesn't start on Saturdays. It's in practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"THAT is when you get better."

Hardesty, Poole and Williams should get a lot better by the time spring practice concludes April 18 with the Orange & White Game. So, in a sense, they'll spend the next 12 days "cramming" for the final.

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