Well ... maybe not.
Arian Foster got 1,193 of his 2,964 career yards in 2007, only 570 of them in 2008 ... when the entire Vol offense came to a screeching halt.
Also missing from the 2008 tailback corps is Lennon Creer, who ranked second among Vols with 388 rushing yards as a sophomore last fall. Creer quit the team midway through spring practice.
The clubhouse leaders in the race to replace Foster and Creer are senior Montario Hardesty (6-0, 215) and sophomore Tauren Poole (5-10, 203), who came out of spring practice ranked 1-2 on the depth chart.
Plagued by injuries, Hardesty has rushed for 1,046 yards in three-plus seasons, with a modest 3.8 per-carry average. When healthy, he's a quality back. The problem is that he's so rarely healthy.
Poole ran for a mere 86 yards as a true freshman last fall but turned some heads in spring scrimmages, rushing 43 times for 239 yards and a fine 5.56 yards-per-carry average. Most of those runs were against second-team defenders, however, who bear little resemblance to the SEC defenders he'll be facing this fall.
Toney Williams, a mid-term freshman, also showed some flashes during spring practice. The 6-0, 218-pounder rushed 41 times for 192 yards and a 4.68 per-carry average.
While Hardesty, Poole and Williams appear to be good backs, the guys who have Big Orange Country buzzing are two celebrated newcomers who have yet to participate in a Vol workout.
Bryce Brown ran for 1,872 yards and 30 touchdowns as a high school senior last fall, earning recognition as Scout.com's No. 1 overall prospect in America. David Oku ran for 1,905 yards and 23 TDs last fall, stats which got him a No. 9 ranking among Scout.com's running back prospects.
If Tennessee were facing the prospect of replacing the 1,193 yards Arian Foster ran for in 2007, the task would be a big challenge. The prospect of replacing the 570 yards he accumulated in 2008 is not.
With the aid of more athletic blockers and more help from a passing attack that was utterly inept last fall, Tennessee's tailbacks should be more effective in 2009 than they were in 2008.
Using my usual scale – Plus-2 (significantly improved), Plus-1 (somewhat improved), 0 (about the same), Minus-1 (somewhat weaker) and Minus-2 (significantly weaker) – I'm giving the tailback position a rating of Plus-2. All of the factors mentioned above should help make Tennessee's tailbacks a lot more productive than they were a year ago.