March 14, 2014
By Jason Yellin KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- In his first performance in Neyland Stadium wearing Orange & White, freshman running back Jalen Hurd sure made an impression on his coach and his teammates. The early enrollee, who graduated Beech High School in December, made the most of his debut.
"I felt like he did really well," said redshirt freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson. "(He was) getting out in the open and making people miss. That is what he does, he is a big body and he can run fast and that is what we need."
For Hurd seeing full-fledged action in pads shows his significant progress after missing virtually all of his senior year of highs school after suffering a broken collar bone on his first game of 2013.
"He hasn't played football in a year with recovering from the surgery so each day of practice I see him getting better and better," said head coach Butch Jones. "I see the improvement coming but I also see the confidence getting in him as well."
The Vols used four quarterbacks during Friday's scrimmage as they all had a chance to work with Hurd. They raved about his skill set and technique.
"Just the way he runs, he finishes runs," said senior quarterback Justin Worley. "He runs hard. He keeps his legs moving through the first contact. He's been able to break some tackles through that which is important in terms of finishing runs and getting extra yardage."
Sophomore Joshua Dobbs echoed Worley's impressions of Hurd and passed along compliments for his teammates.
"Jalen Hurd had a great day today, but not just him," said Dobbs. "I feel the entire team had some nice runs today. I'm very excited about that.
"He's been very consistent. Not only him, but all of the early enrollees have done a great job just getting acclimated to a college practice. They've done a great job for us and making plays."
One of the men charged with opening holes for Hurd is center Mack Crowder. He also had praise for Hurd, who is just five practices into his college career.
"He did really good," said the redshirt junior center. "He just needs to keep calm whenever he's back there and keep his eyes up and read the holes. I think he got spooked a few times today, but overall he was running very hard and he definitely was hitting some holes. I was very proud of him."
On the other side of the ball, Hurd drew attention from several defense players.
"Jalen (Hurd) was running pretty good," said senior defensive back Justin Coleman, who stands 5-10. "He has great vision. He's pretty fast and runs hard. It's probably harder for people who hit him up high. But if you're a guy like me, I'm going to take his legs out."
On the defensive line, sophomore Corey Vereen talked about Hurd's effort and drive which is evident daily.
"He's always bringing his stuff every day," Vereen said about Hurd. "He's a young player. It's nice and inspiring seeing him coming out here and bringing it every day. It's really inspiring to see him." Of course, Jones is keeping expectation levels tempered for the 18-year old who should be heading to his Senior Prom in a few weeks.
"He understands what he needs to work on," said Jones. "He is working himself back into football shape and there is a difference."