Tennessee football 2008: Running backs

Vols have a stable of tested runners

Tennessee tailback Arian Foster, right, races for yardage against Vanderbilt as the Commodores’ Reshard Langford gives chase.
Foster, a senior, is expected to carry much of the load of UT’s offense in 2008.

Photo by Saul Young

Tennessee tailback Arian Foster, right, races for yardage against Vanderbilt as the Commodores’ Reshard Langford gives chase. Foster, a senior, is expected to carry much of the load of UT’s offense in 2008.

Tennessee tailback Arian Foster, right, races for yardage against Vanderbilt as the Commodores’ Reshard Langford gives chase.
Foster, a senior, is expected to carry much of the load of UT’s offense in 2008.

Photo by Saul Young // Buy this photo

Tennessee tailback Arian Foster, right, races for yardage against Vanderbilt as the Commodores’ Reshard Langford gives chase. Foster, a senior, is expected to carry much of the load of UT’s offense in 2008.


UT strength and conditioning coach Johnny Long talks about the 2008 Vols and their off-season training.

UT strength and conditioning coach Johnny Long talks about the 2008 Vols and their off-season training. Watch »


The University of Tennessee gave press a glimpse of recent Neyland Stadium renovations.

The University of Tennessee gave press a glimpse of recent Neyland Stadium renovations. Watch »


  • Stan Drayton


  • Tailbacks: Arian Foster (Montario Hardesty, Lennon Creer, Tauren Poole).
  • Fullbacks: Kevin Cooper (Austin Johnson).


  • Creer, who led all backs with 5.9 yards per carry last season and could be the Vols’ most explosive threat.


  • Foster enters his senior season needing 684 yards to pass Travis Henry as UT’s all-time leading rusher.

During spring practice, Tennessee looked like it was searching for a running back.

Younger players took the majority of snaps and absorbed the majority of hits.

But the Vols are plenty deep at tailback. And plenty proven.

Senior Arian Foster joins Jamal Lewis and Gerald Riggs as the only backs since 1998 to return following 1,000-yard seasons.

Last season, Foster nearly doubled his career rushing total and bounced back from a sluggish sophomore year with 1,193 yards on the ground.

But Foster isn't just a runner. He's an effective receiver out of the backfield, catching 39 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns in 2007, and he has often been praised for his pass-protection skills.

"He's a guy that can run the football," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. "I think one of Arian's real strengths is what he does without the football as far as his ability to protect, his ability to run routes, and to me he's been a very quick learner with the offense."

Clawson is Foster's third offensive coordinator in four years at Tennessee, but he tackled the new offense in limited carries and emerged from spring practice as the clear starter.

Sophomore Lennon Creer, who rushed for 214 yards last season, and true freshman Tauren Poole took the bulk of snaps at running back in spring partly to keep Foster fresh for the fall. All those snaps in spring practice, though, could pay dividends down the road.

"A bunch of guys who were in high school a year ago that have gotten a ton of reps this spring," Clawson said. "At times it's been a painful process because they're out there for the first time in spring practice, and in a new offense, but I think their growth is something that's really going to help us as we move forward here."

Montario Hardesty, UT's second-leading rusher in 2007 with 373 yards, wants to move forward, too.

The promising junior missed most of spring practice with a lower-leg stress fracture, the latest in a string of injury-related setbacks throughout his career.

When healthy, Hardesty is an explosive, tough runner. And heading into the start of fall camp, the junior said he feels good.

"I wouldn't say it's the best I've felt, but it's as good as I've felt," he said. "I feel fast, I feel strong and everything like that. I just need to stay healthy all this year so I can be on the field and show you what I mean when I say I feel good."

If Hardesty remains healthy - admittedly a pretty big if - the Vols have a versatile backfield that can blend speed and power, along with viable threats in the passing game.

"Our goal coming from the spring is to be the best backfield in the country," Hardesty says. "I think we can do that with the people we've got. We've got all kinds of different runners, different weapons."

At fullback, which should make a comeback in UT's offense with Clawson calling plays, the Vols got productive work from sophomore Kevin Cooper and true freshman Austin Johnson. Senior David Holbert likely won't be a factor after suffering a traumatic knee injury early in spring practice.

But Foster, who needs just 684 yards to break Travis Henry's career rushing record, should be the focal point in the backfield both for Clawson's diverse play-calling and opposing defenses.

"Arian Foster, he's not a young guy," Clawson said. "He's the most proven commodity that we have back there."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 150

bobbarbilly writes:

Somebody is gonna get run over.

FWBVol writes:

Foster should put up monster numbers this year, and that will take some pressure off Crompton as he settles into the starting spot at quarterback...not that I'm worried about Crompton.

It sounds as if this offense is going to be fun to watch, unless you are trying to stop it.

cwisenhower#637741 writes:

Go Arian! Woo!

orangebloodgmc writes:

I'm glad Hardesty is getting healthier. If nothing else, he is a role model for running hard with grittiness and determination.

We got at least 4 rbs that can play. Now looking forward to seeing what the fullbacks will do.

utchris writes:

To change gears a little bit...

I got some info on Marlon Brown, our top prospect for next year. Last week, Hooker reported that it was going to be hard to beat out USC. I am hearing that he was not too keen on USC or UCLA and actually said Stanford was his top school on the left coast. I have also been told that he has mentioned numerous times that its going to be hard to beat out Tennessee.

Additionally, he has garnered much more attention on the basketball scene. In one game at the big Peach Tree Tournament last week he apparently shut down a player that is considered one of the top ten players in the nation for next year. Pearl apparently sent a text to his coach saying "Marlon was by far the best athlete in this tournament. I have to have this kid!"

He is saying that he will not announce until signing day, so we will have to wait on this one. I am hearing that his official visit will likely be the Florida game.

MrBamSeydu writes:

I think Arian will have around 1,200 yards this year with 9 TD's. I don't see Hardesty ever being more than a 500 yard per season running back, only because he can't seem to stay injury free. Creer and Poole are both fair RB's but most of Creer's big yardage was against weaker teams or mop up duty. I still think Coker was our best RB with pro-potential..... but oh well.

Volomatic writes:

I don't know about you guys but after watching this poole kids videos he seems like hes going to be a great RB in the 09 season hopefully we can let him mop up some blow outs this year to get some exp. Especially when we run all over florida

wyomingvol writes:

Alright then......

gnm53108 writes:

volomatic..Thats what I,m talking about.If we can establish a run game,especially in the 2nd half,to put games away we are going to make some noise this year.
Let the frost brewed koolaid flow.
Go VOLS!!!

Volomatic writes:

Why does everyone have to reply with such negativity towards UT cant you just say lets hope so or I can't wait For us to be UT fans I think most peep's on here are full of it and just want attention anyway they can get it

Coming from a true Vols fan you will never ever ever in your life here me say florida is the best team in the nation you have to be out of you freakin mind

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Amen! Gen W 5:36- Clarity in the AM. Phil strikes fear into the heathern hordes we shall dispatch on our way to the Grail.

That said, someone tell us how many carries Foster had last year.

And what is the over/under for how many snaps Hardesty gets before is is injured?

We need loooooong sustained drives.

I would imagine the number of free games ball in row 31 will be down by 70%.

GreerVol22 writes:

pd...its likely that Hardesty will pull a "dam" getting on the elevator in UCLA just prior to the game.

dam=dumb AZZ muscle

ThurmondEppy writes:

Nice article. Hopefully KNS will do one like this on each of the team's positions.

cjraney writes:

Didn't realize Ainge could get the ball all the way up to Row 31 last year.

vol98champ writes:

How often does the favorite in the east win the division? Wasn't Tennessee picked 3rd last year? What happened to Warren and Williams? Shouldn't both of those guys contribute this year? Predictions are like pie crust; likely to crumble, but this could be a good year for the vols.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

cjraney 7:35 - just hope Ainge's wounded ducks aren't replaced by fluttering punts netting, say, 14 yards or so.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

okay, here goes...
Foster is a 'decent' rb. I agree with brad, Coker was the best we had. Hardesty has never impressed me much, no moves.

We gotta go back to a couple of points:
-Crompton has to pass well enough to open the run game
-the o-line has to block better in the run game.

I'm thinking we will still struggle to run the ball.

uf or uga....
I agree UGA is overrated. their best weapon is the RB (can't think of his name), that kid is a super player. Stafford has not impressed me much.

both uf and uga had some really bad defensive games last year, and some really good ones. however, they were not consistant.

Which brings me to....LSU. yeah, they lost 8 million starters. they just always seem to have so much talent, even in down years. saban/miles have both recruited well. I'm not saying to pick LSU, but I sure as hell am not overlooking them.

Sheepscape writes:

Arian is very effective. He needs to hang on to the football better...looking for Creer to provide some changeup in the running game.

Hopson2008 writes:

Can't wait to see Foster and Hardesty run all over the Bruins in person at the Rose Bowl. I'm predicting a wheel route to Foster on the first play (see Kentucky game 2007). Does anyone know the status of Brandon Warren and Gerald Williams?

Waldorf writes:

I think Foster can go for 1,200 yards on the ground this year. From what Clawson has said, it wouldn't totally surprise me if he got about 1,600 all purpose yards.

Hate to say it, but it's time to move Hardesty to the backburner and let Creer and Poole get in reps as the back-up.

If, and it's a big if, we can get back to 175 yards a game on the ground, we'll contend in the East.

Greyback_Vol writes:

While the success of UT's new offense depends heavily on how quickly the players grasp the system and how well Crompton plays, Foster MUST get the ball in order for the offense to click.

Let's do the math: a well-rounded senior tailback (1,100 yds and 12 tds in '07, plus 39 catches) + an offensive line that returns all 5 starters + an inexperienced, but talented, QB. The coaches are insane if Foster doesn't get a huge number of carries this year.

Also, I really believe Lennon Creer is going to surpass Hardesty for the #2 tailback spot. Creer can fly, and Hardesty just can't stay healthy.

Looking forward to see what Clawson does with the fullbacks. Hopefully it will involve the big boys going out for an occasional play-action pass.

Sheepscape writes:

Heck, given the lack of productive play for our fullbacks over the last few years, I will be happy if they can just block.

richvol writes:

This is the week we were to hear if Brandon Warren is eligible.What about it Kaplan...any news?

Sheepscape writes:


Will Revel or Will Bartholomew?

Go4Two writes:

Talented OL + Solid running backs = 10+ wins. I believe the lack of a RB's will be Fla's down fall.

Waldorf writes:

marc -

Clawson said he wants a 3,000 yard passer, a 1,000 yard receiver, and a 1,000 yard rusher. I really think they are going to use his as a workhorse this year. Could be wrong, but just what I see.

miamiVOL writes:

B.Warren and G.Williams status will not be unknown until early August, they both appear to be green lit.

Hardesty is a fantastic back that cant beat the injury bug, but hopefully he can finish this season healthy, if he doesnt, there is no way he can be our #1 next yr so might as well let Creer (a near 5 star stud, 6.0 Rivals Rating) get some QUALITY snaps at RB

I expect A.Foster to carry the load, especially early, apparently he has dropped a few LBS this season in an effort to be more explosive, but he just needs to concentrate on just HITTIN DA HOLE instead of his east/west dancing that he tends to do, from time to time.

Sheepscape writes:


Gotcha. I knew he left the team early, but was foggy on the specifics...I am of the opinion our last truly effective fb was Bartholomew.

chad_t31 writes:

There is no reason this offense shouldn't put up 30 every saturday....and labor day too!

Brama writes:

Foster is a hard runner but needs to be 2 steps faster!

voloffaith writes:

Creer had a problem with keeping the handle on the ball. Check carries to fumbles ratio. I don't remember the numbers or have not looked up. Just seems that he fumbled about four times in his short stint last year. I'm sure (hope) that has been addressed in the offseason and other scrimmages.

jhayes1911 writes:

Has anyone heard of Shawn Bryson...?

volguy41nlouisiana writes:

mparker......I unfortunately am stuck here in Bayou land...and LSU is getting a little of the UT bug as of late....they just had a a6'6 300lb offensive lineman kicked off the teamfor undisclosed reasons....appears their qb is a transfer from an ivy league school....(not too many happy people down here).....its a cycle in the SEC...LSU has been awesome for bout 5 years....now...they are gonna suffer i beleive....couple years they arent gonna be what they were....just as I think UT will be on the up....Crompton brings scrambling ability that we havent had since T Martin....(oh yeah....he did pretty well didnt he)lol...with a good running game...some blocking ....I think we are gonna shock college football....(all this said without one sip of the koolaid...)..its all there for the taking...and I think we TAKE this year....GO VOLSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

atl4canes writes:

Tn. is building on depth and more depth while teams like UGA are getting all the press because of some kid they think is the next Hershel. Vols are my SEC and national dark horse.
Oh, and Stafford.....

Sheepscape writes:

Bryson was a converted tailback as I recall. Do we have someone we might consider doing the same with?

GoVol writes:

With this depth we should be able to keep fresh legs in the game at all times. Foster tends to tire easily and since he's not a speedster hopefully Clawson will substitute frequently.

94VOL writes:

Tailback is going to be our strength and back bone for the first few games. This is fine with me because it should give the rest of the O time to get the new system down. UCLA will have trouble stopping our power and speed.
If these guys hold onto the ball early we should be fine!!!!!

99gator writes:

since everyone seems to be on a kool-aid high.....

give me five reasons why tenn will be the sec champion or make a bcs bowl in 2008.

TommyJack writes:

Brama 9:48: Yeah, and people in hell need ice-water. Foster is a very capable back. What he needed most was to be cut loose from Cut's offense.

VolGraduate writes:

(1) fl blows it load against ut every year and will lose multiple league games
(2) ga is overrated
(3) goon squad
(4) clawson
(5) arian foster

we've been knocking on the door for 10 years and this team is ready to kick it down. put the women and children to sleep come sept 1

99gator writes:


tenn's offense can be very good. but, there is a lot of unknown. there is a lot to be optimistic about with the new coordinator and new qb. but, even if those things turn out to be good, i don't like tenn's weapons at the skill positions.

marc ash

1. schedule
2. depth
3. the o-line and d-line
4. the down year for most offenses in the SEC.
5. lots and lots of playmakers on offense and special teams

VolGraduate writes:

you must not keep up with the vols as much as you pretend. you will see the weapons come sept.

mikes70gto writes:

5.Fl's D is still suspect

99gator writes:

marc ash

fair enough.

the offensive line will be an interesting thing to follow throughout the year.

i don't know how good they are truthfully. they did not pancake people in the run game and they did not pass block for more than half a second.

was it cutcliffe's system or are there problems up front?

i don't know. most of y'all seem to believe it was cutcliffe so i will take your word for it.

one of the many reasons i think cutcliffe is and was way way way overated.

law_vol writes:

99gator - You don't have to be on Kool-aid to think that Tenn has a chance at the SEC championship next year.

Tenn was there last year with a chance to win, so its not crazy talk to think Tenn (or any other SEC East team) has a better shot at beating a seemingly down SEC West.

Tenn will be a better team than last year. Learning a new offense isn't necessarily a factor, because Tenn had to learn Cuts new no-huddle offense and did ok (ie-won enough games to stay in the mix and get to the SEC CG). Crompton will be good enough to at least be effective (Tee Martin being steady, effective and mobile gave us the chances we had in 1998).

So the only question is whether UGA's butt-kicking of Hawaii is really a harbinger of things to come, and if FL's defense can get its act together, because either one of those teams will only be marginally better, if at all, than last year on offense (can't improve too much when you are already operating at a high level).

99gator writes:


i joke about the "kool aid" high not because you all expect to contend for the sec title....but, that every part of the team is going to be awesome.

the offensive line is awesone (did not knock anyone off the ball last year except georgia). the secondary is the best in the country (could not cover anyone last season). the qb will be better than ainge (hasn't proven anything yet), clawson is going to be our next head coach (hasn't coached a day at a division 1 school yet), etc, etc, etc.

it would be like me expecting the florida defense to be awesome (which i don't). better, yes. awesome, no. how good. have no idea until they prove it.

law_vol writes:

99 - you overexagerate as usual. Tenn fans don't think that every part of the team is going to be awesome, because I bet you can't find one person that thinks the LB's and DL will be awesome. Every part of the team doesn't have to be awesome for fans to get excited about the chances to have a successful season. Again, not awesome last year, and Tenn pulled a rabbit out of its hat and beat UGA, and then was an EA INT away from maybe winning the SECCG and going to a BCS bowl.

DennisVols writes:

It will be an offense like we have not seen. Clawson will get the playmakers, be it Foster, Hardesty, Creer, Poole or our receiving corps into open spaces and let they run. No longer will we see run up the middle, run up the middle, short pass, punt.
This offense will keep every defense guessing. It will give you the same look twice but do different things. Sometimes out wide, sometimes up the middle and sometimes long.
Foster will have over 1,000 yds rushing and don't be surprised if he totals over 2,000 counting receiving yards. Watch for UT to start out running against University of Cal Loses Alot and then exploit their inexperienced defensive backfield by sending the receivers long and crossing Foster over the middle with a play-action pass. Spread em out and then run it down their throat.
UF will look at the tapes from the UCLA and UAB games and will determine that they must expect any and everything unlike years past when conservative wasl our only play.
30 points will be an off week for this team and the 2nd half of the game could and should be more explosive than the first as the defense will wear down reacting to this wide open attack.
Keeping it Real
GO Vols!!!!!

volwalk writes:


1.Low expectations from the media.
2.Experienced backfield, O-line and receivers.
3.One of the most talented and experienced secondaries in the country. Linebacking corp better than average as well as the D-line.
4.We owe a whipping to FL and UA...both games are at Neyland..Favorable Schedule.
5.New Offensive Coordinator with a mobile QB. Crompton is a gamer and may not put up some of the numbers that Ainge did...but Crompton will be a better QB in the crunch. JoCro will give us our first SEC Championship in 10 years and will take us back to a BCS game.


99gator writes:



i just think some of the things people here seem to be question marks as opposed to sure things.

crompton is an example. to me, he's a question mark. which is not say he won't be a good player or have a good year. only, that he is an unknown commodity. people assume he will be better this year than erik ainge last year.....and i don't think that's a safe assumption.

there are other examples. there are lots of questions. and maybe tennessee will have all the answers. but, i don't know.

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