UT offensive coordinator, Dave Clawson, talks about the competition for starting quarterback and what each player, Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens, bring to the table. Watch »
More on QB situation
While Tennessee opened a much-publicized quarterback competition this week, tailback is very settled — sort of.
Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said that senior Arian Foster will remain UT’s starting tailback despite another costly miscue — this time a bobbled center-quarterback exchange that resulted in an Auburn touchdown and a 14-12 loss last Saturday.
UT coaches repeatedly said this week that Foster was to blame for not having his right elbow high enough to accept the ball.
“Arian is still the starter and if he goes out there and plays well and we’re moving the football, we’ll keep him in there,” Clawson said.
Foster has 47 carries this season and is averaging 5.6 yards per attempt, but has made two key turnovers in losses to UCLA and Auburn.
Foster declined interview requests following the Auburn game and refused media requests this week.
Backup junior Montario Hardesty has carried 34 times this season for a 4.2-yard average.
Sophomore Lennon Creer’s average is 8.9 yards per carry, yet he has only 13 attempts this season.
“Arian is very multi-dimensional and can do a lot of different things,” Clawson said. “Montario is probably our hard-hat guy, the most physical guy.
“And I’m not sure Lennon doesn’t give us our best opportunity for a big play.”
Hardesty began the season with 12 carries against UCLA, then had seven against UAB, five against Florida and 10 against Auburn.
“I was happy to get some more carries,” Hardesty said. “It was definitely good.”
After overcoming a myriad of leg injuries, Hardesty said the college game is just starting to slow down.
Hardesty likely would benefit from more carries considering his running style is more apt to wear a defense down.
“(Running backs) coach (Stan) Drayton has a plan for us,” Hardesty said. “I can’t really control that.
“I can just control when I’m in there, being productive with the carries I get.”
The odd man out so far has been freshman Tauren Poole, who was the talk of preseason camp. Poole has nine carries, all in mop-up duty.
Clawson said that Poole’s lack of playing time has nothing to do with his ability, just his lack of experience.
“If we have an injury or two, Tauren will be right there,” Clawson said.
Ultimately, Clawson described the depth at tailback as a good problem.
“We have four backs that we have great confidence in,” Clawson said. “… but there’s not enough footballs.”
Injury Report: UT coach Phillip Fulmer confirmed that senior middle linebacker Ellix Wilson (shoulder) will be available for Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois.
Junior offensive guard Vladimir Richard has been slow to progress from a sore knee this week. He is questionable.
Junior tight end Jeff Cottam was out of the green, non-contact jersey he was wearing Wednesday and practiced at close to full speed on Thursday. Fulmer said he expects Cottam to play about 20 plays on Saturday.
Heading Up Hope: Several of UT’s upperclassmen have addressed their team after a 1-3 start.
Senior Anthony Parker said his message to teammates was about hope.
He pointed out that the Vols made the SEC championship game with two losses last season — even though UT’s second loss in 2007 came in late October, not in September, as is the case this season.
“There still is hope,” Parker said. “Yeah, our backs are against the wall big-time right now.
“We’ve got to relay the message that we’ve got to keep fighting, we’ve got to keep working hard because it is a long season.
“There are eight more games to go. Anything could happen in those next eight games. We could win all eight of them if we really work for it and play as hard as we can play.”
Wilson hopes his teammates are listening.
“Hopefully, everybody has their head in the right place, knowing we can turn the season around,” Wilson said. “I just hope everybody is taking it the right way and just trying to get out here and win.
“We have to get things turned around and we have to do it quick.”
Recruiting Trail: Jerod Askew, a linebacker from Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., is UT’s only official visitor this weekend.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder is considering several schools, including Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, Clemson, Michigan and Oklahoma.