Oct. 1, 2011
BY JOSH PATE
Welcome to Neyland Stadium, Devrin Young.
After missing the season's first three games due to a broken collar bone from fall camp, the freshman running back provided a much-needed spark in Tennessee's kick and punt return unit with 100 all-purpose yards in Saturday's 41-10 victory over Buffalo.
"It was nice to see the return game give us a little field position and energy," UT head coach Derek Dooley said. "I hope we can continue that and hold onto the ball."
Young finished with 51 yards in kickoff returns, and he rushed for 6 yards. He made his mark, however, when he fielded Buffalo's first punt at the UT 9-yard line and ran it back 43 yards, allowing the Vols to begin their first offensive possession at the Buffalo 48. It was Tennessee's longest punt return since Dennis Rogan ran one back 45 yards against Vanderbilt in 2007.
Quarterback Tyler Bray thought Young was going to take it to the end zone the first time he touched the football.
"I was going nuts," Bray said. "His first game in front of the home crowd and he almost does that. It would have been great."
The return was a breath of fresh air for the Vols, who have struggled the last two seasons with kick and punt returns. At one point last season, head coach Derek Dooley joked that he may not place anyone deep to field punts - and at times he didn't - if they couldn't get production or hold onto the football.
With the good, however, there was bad.
Young dropped a punt and fumbled another one.
"He dropped one because he was nervous he was going to get hit," Dooley said. "He fumbled one because a guy came from behind. He's got to get down and hold onto the ball."
Dooley had Young work on carrying the ball last week, but there were still jitters in the freshman's first game action.
"He had two good returns," Dooley said. "I hope he can continue to do that. It got a little energy going in the return game. Hopefully, that will energize the guys blocking. But, he put the ball on the ground, too. So you all know why I had him carrying the ball all week. It didn't help. Or maybe it did. Maybe he would've fumbled five.
"It was a `do it and get your feet wet' game and we'll see how he progresses."