Making 'em miss

He lacks 4.3 speed over 40 yards. He lacks a 240-pound frame that can knock opposing defenders on their backs. One thing he doesn't lack, though, is the ability to make people miss.

When you get right down to it, that's what playing tailback is all about. And that's why Tauren Poole is Tennessee's No. 1 ball-carrying option coming out of spring practice. The 211-pound junior solidified his status with a strong performance in Saturday's spring game, rushing 12 times for 43 yards and catching three passes for another 58 yards in leading the White past the Orange 16-7.

Poole broke close to a dozen tackles on the 15 touches he had last Saturday. In other words, it was a typical day's work.

"I always tell myself I don't want to be tackled by the first guy, and I have always prided myself in yards after contact," he said. "We got a lot of yards like that."

Poole's 12 carries on Saturday were two more than he got during the entire 2009 season. With Montario Hardesty having a breakout year and freshmen Bryce Brown and David Oku having been promised substantial playing time, Poole was the odd-man-out at tailback.

Now that Hardesty is out of eligibility and a new coaching regime is in place, Poole is getting every chance to prove himself this year. He's clearly taking advantage.

"It feels good to have that trust and to get more chances," he said. "I just worked with the opportunities I got, and it feels great to get out there and get a win."

Poole's ability to make people miss will not only boost Tennessee's running game but also its passing attack. He recorded just one pass reception in 2009 but showed a real knack for catching the ball out of the backfield last Saturday.

"I just have to get in the quarterback's sight because I'm a little shorter than most backs," said Poole, who is an inch or two shy of his listed height of 5-11. "Once I do that I can give him a chance to get me the ball."

Minus all five starters from 2009, Tennessee's offensive line is a huge question mark heading into the 2010 season. Poole was encouraged by the blocking he got this spring, however, and believes the O-linemen are going to surprise some people in the fall.

"They've come a long way," he said. "We only had 15 practices together but we developed unity and togetherness. The biggest thing is, we just need to continue working together and we can accomplish anything."

Thanks to two head coaching changes since he arrived on campus, Poole is playing in his third offensive system in three years. He hints that this one is his favorite.

"I like it a lot," he said. "I feel like we all can excel in it. All we have to do is keep working and buying in to what Coach is saying."


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