April 1, 2014
By Alex Cate
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- While the newcomers have gotten a lot of the early attention for their arrival to Team 118, two veterans are steadily cementing themselves as a part of the running back corps.
Seniors Marlin Lane and Devrin Young have been impressive in spring practice in trying to replace productive running back and VFL Rajion Neal. The two experienced runners, along with highly touted freshmen, Jalen Hurd, have their sights on creating one of the best running back groups in the SEC.
"Versatility is always good," said Young. "When you have a group of guys that all bring something different to the table it is better. Obviously, competition is high no matter what. When everybody can bring something different to the table it just shows versatility."
Young might be one of the most versatile players on Tennessee's roster. At 5 foot 8 inches, he has played a major role on special teams and has even spent time spread out as a wide receiver. Back at his original position, Young feels he can be a contributor this season.
"At the end of the day, if you hand the ball to me I am comfortable," he said. "It is just getting the plays down so you can play as fast as you want to play. That is really where the comfort level rises and falls, it is just knowing the plays or not."
Lane also feels like he can become a big part of the Volunteer's offense. He carried the ball 101 times for 534 yards as a junior with four touchdowns.
Head coach Butch Jones has noticed his impressive spring as well, calling him a "model of consistency".
"Every day I come in and I forget about the past and just think of myself coming out for a tryout of a team - making myself consistent of knowing the playbook and knowing what people are doing around me," said Lane.
So far, Lane - like Young - has been impressed with the way each of the running backs bring a different skill to the offense.
Lane has great vision and the ability to find his way through gaps in the line. Young brings the speed, something that fits well in Jones' offense and Hurd has the size and strength to make defensive players not want to tackle him. Together they feel their unit can be a challenge for SEC defenses.
"It's really good. When one gets in, they're not one dimensional," said Lane on having multiple running backs. "They can get out there and do something the other backs can't do. I feel like that is going to bring a big impact to our offense."
Jones has preached using several different running backs. So far he's been impressed with what he's seen this spring.
"It is big that we play complementary football, especially at the running back position," said Jones. "Everyone has a different skillset and now it is our job as coaches to put them in position where they can take advantage and use their individual skillsets to our advantage as a football team. Each of them brings a different dynamic to it. And we welcome two more running backs come June, so we are excited about that position."
With the two veterans leading the way and a host of talented backs behind them, there is a lot of be excited about when Tennessee runs the ball this fall.