Poole makes a splash

The forgotten man of Tennessee's running stable just got himself remembered.

Overshadowed by senior Montario Hardesty, along with heralded freshmen Bryce Brown and David Oku all preseason, sophomore Tauren Poole reminded observers that there's a fourth option at tailback with an eye-popping performance in Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage.

Showing a burst of speed that was not evident in 2008, Poole rushed eight times for 141 yards with touchdown runs of 70 and 44 yards. He also turned a short pass into a 20-yard touchdown. It was a shocking performance for a guy who gained just 86 yards on 22 rushes (3.9 yards per carry) as a freshman last fall.

Poole admitted that all of the hoopla surrounding Brown and Oku got his attention and got him motivated.

"I just knew I had to come in and work hard and just fight every day with those good tailbacks coming in," he said. "I've been listening to Coach Gran's coaching and it's gotten me a spark. I'm doing well."

Asked if Poole might have a chip on his shoulder due to the publicity the freshman tailbacks are getting, first-year running backs coach Eddie Gran shook his head.

"I don't think he's got a chip," Gran said. "We always talk about competing ... and he's making the most of his reps.... To be able to make plays when he gets his opportunities, that's good. That obviously keeps him in a position to get touches."

Junior defensive end Chris Walker believes Poole is much quicker and harder to contain than he was last fall, when he packed 203 pounds on his 5-10 frame.

"Man, Tauren has gotten so much better," Walker said. "He's gotten faster. He told me he's lost 15 pounds because he wants to get back to where he's got breakaway speed. He's gotten better making his cuts, getting away and making moves. He's really improved."

Poole seems to play his best when the Vols scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. The Vols' offensive coordinator has noticed.

"It seems like every time we walk in the stadium he seems to make a big run," Jim Chaney said. "He continues to show up. There's so much competition at that position in our camp, so that is fantastic."

Tennessee's head coach also has noticed that Neyland Stadium seems to bring out the best in Poole.

"He shows up every time we come in here," Lane Kiffin said. "He's an example of a guy who's not played very much but who continues to play well. If he beats those guys out and performs better than all of them, he'll be the No. 1 guy."

A low-key sort, Poole normally lets his actions speak for him. So it wasn't surprising that he summed up his amazing performance with just 11 words:

"I just hit the hole today," he said, "and it came out good."

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