Drops not whole story for Foster

Humbled by fumbles

Running back Arian Foster of Tennessee sits on the bench during last Monday’s game against UCLA. Foster had a key fumble as the Vols lost
later in overtime.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Running back Arian Foster of Tennessee sits on the bench during last Monday’s game against UCLA. Foster had a key fumble as the Vols lost later in overtime.

Arian Foster knows the questions are coming. He's seen it before.

A costly fumble equals scrutiny, which only furthers his reputation as a tailback with a loose handle.

Go ahead.

Get it over with.

Just ask.

That's what Foster's eyes convey with a fleeting glance towards the lone reporter.

"When I fumble, it's amplified for whatever reason," the Tennessee tailback said when asked about his turnover in Monday's season-opening 27-24 loss to UCLA in overtime. "I think mainly it's the media. All anybody wants to talk about is the fumble."

But what about your 7.4-yard average against the Bruins or that 41-yard run?

"You say that after you ask me a question about the fumble," a still sullen Foster said. "You all (the media) dictate people's opinions a lot of the time."

Then the defenses are dropped.

"I guess I'm human, too," Foster says in a hardly audible voice.

The media isn't completely to blame for Foster's fumbling reputation. Cruel irony has played a major role. Many of his miscues have come at the most inopportune times.

There was the fumble in the Outback Bowl two seasons ago that was returned 88 yards for the decisive touchdown. In 2005, Foster fumbled stretching for the end zone in a late loss to South Carolina.

Last season, there was the botched handoff against Florida - only partially his fault - that resulted in a defensive touchdown just as the Vols had clawed back into the game. The Gators rolled.

There was another fumble late in a South Carolina game last year. Fortunately for Foster, that one was recovered by UT offensive lineman Jacques McClendon. The Vols prevailed, kicking a field goal later in the drive for the win.

The fumble against UCLA was a drive-killing turnover, just six yards from the end zone as the Vols appeared to be ready to take a 21-7 lead.

UT is 1-4 in those "fumble" games.

Yet Foster challenges anyone to check the stats before labeling him as a fumbler. And he's got a point.

In 284 touches (245 carries and 39 pass receptions) last season, Foster was charged with only three fumbles and recovered two. McClendon recovered the other.

Foster was not charged for the botched handoff against Florida. Even if you count the Florida mishap against him, that's a fumble for every 71 touches or 1.4 percent of the time.

If you don't count the Florida miscue, that's one fumble for every 95 touches.

Yet those stats - or what they represent - are most often what Foster is remembered for, not the fact that he's only 588 yards from becoming UT's all-time leading rusher.

One would think that Foster could alter his perception by reaching such a distinction.

Not Foster.

"I can't erase anything in anybody's minds," he said. "I can't change people's perceptions of me."

Dynamic Duo

In the wake of the loss to UCLA, the knee-jerk reaction among many fans was to elevate junior tailback Montario Hardesty to starter above Foster.

After a long list of leg injuries, Hardesty looked stronger and quicker than ever against the Bruins, rushing for 66 yards on 12 carries for a 5.5-yard average and two touchdowns.

"The way I look at it, I have two starters," first-year running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "In a perfect world, those reps are going to be evenly distributed.

Drayton, who described the competition between the two tailbacks as "neck-and-neck", said a lack of preseason contact could have contributed to Foster's most recent turnover. Foster missed much of preseason camp with a bone bruise in his knee.

Drayton admitted that Foster's elbow was a "little loose" when he lost the ball against UCLA. Yet the slip up in technique was far from Foster's shortcomings as an underclassman.

UT coach Phillip Fulmer readily commends Foster for his improvement since his freshman and sophomore season. Still, he said there is room for improvement.

"The reality is he has a ball security problem and not a fumbling problem," Fulmer said. "If you play running back, you're going to have a fumble every now and then.

"Hopefully not too many and hopefully not untimely like that one (against UCLA).

"I'm not defending him. It never should have happened. Never should have happened.

"But since his sophomore year he really hasn't had a lot of those in a game."

Hardesty isn't clamoring to be the starter, although he would gladly accept the role.

He certainly doesn't take pleasure in Foster fumbling just because it might provide some opportunity. In the fraternity of tailbacks, fumbling hurts, no matter the culprit.

Hardesty still grimaces as he recalls fumbling away a state championship during his sophomore year at New Bern (N.C.) High School.

Hardesty was returning a kickoff against powerhouse Independence High late in the fourth quarter and a 21-20 lead.

When the ball came loose, it seemed like slow motion.

When Independence won, it seemed like hell.

"If you don't get it back, it's just painful," Hardesty said. "That's my biggest fumble. I've been blessed not to fumble too many times in a game."

Message Board Mom

Arian Foster's mother has never fumbled a football, but she knows the pain associated with such a miscue.

Curiosity first led Bernadette Foster to Internet message boards when her son was being recruited by several colleges from coast to coast.

Now, the poster known as Fostermom fashions herself as an advocate for college athletes.

Bernadette was at her strongest shortly after the UCLA loss when infamous UT booster Roy Adams drew her ire.

Adams, known as Tennstud, pointed out Arian's fumble as a key play in the loss.

Bernadette tore into Adams with a message board post, claiming Adams was only about wooing athletes with gifts and money. Despite the attack, Bernadette insists she was never angry.

"The story behind me and Roy goes back a little further than that (post)," Bernadette said. "That was just the last straw as far as he and I were concerned.

"Had I gone off on him, there was plenty of other material that I could have addressed from an angry standpoint. But I didn't because I wasn't angry.

"That's all that I'm going to say about Roy."

Angry or not, Bernadette knows how tough a time this is for her son.

"At times like these," she said, "he has to work really hard to keep his attitude positive, has to work hard to keep his attitude right."

Inky Insight

Former UT teammate Inky Johnson was one of the first to approach Foster following his turnover Monday.

"He told me he was alright but at the same time I knew that it bothered him," Johnson said.

As one of UT's spiritual leaders, Johnson's advice is always well received.

Johnson knows the pain associated with a major mistake in a big ball game. Before suffering a devastating arm injury in 2006 that ended his football career, Johnson was a lockdown cornerback.

Yet Johnson knew that one play could change the way he was perceived. A cornerback giving up a big pass play and a tailback losing an untimely fumble can be remembered in much the same way.

"I can relate to that," Johnson said. "If things happen at the wrong moment, the fans are not going to remember all the good things that happened in the game."

Following the UCLA game, Johnson felt so bad for Foster that he sought him out again. The two visited for 30 minutes outside the team hotel.

"Mistakes are going to be made," Johnson recalled telling Foster. "It's not the mistakes that are made but how you respond to the mistakes that are made."

The Goal: Perfection

The public criticism hurts, but Foster's toughest critic lines up in his cleats every day in practice.

There's a reason why Foster is climbing UT's all-time rushing chart. He might not be the most gifted tailback in UT history with names like Travis Henry, James Stewart, Johnnie Jones, Jamal Lewis, Cedric Houston and Jay Graham still ahead of him, but it would be hard to find one that better maximized their talent.

That comes from being a perfectionist.

"Even though he doesn't fumble a lot, he holds himself to high expectations that when he does fumble it bothers him a lot and messes with him," Johnson said.

When it comes to ball security, the fine-tuning is up to Drayton, who has already diagnosed the problem. Foster's elbow tends to leave his body in order to maintain his balance just as he's making a cut.

"We can't accept that," Drayton said. "The ball is a threat to come out at any given time if any running back carries the football like that."

So Drayton said he already has drills in place to work on the problem.

Therein lies the challenge.

Drayton is one of the first to point out that making too much of an occasional fumble can actually make matters much worse.

No individual at UT wants to go from a tailback who rarely fumbles to a tailback that runs tentatively because he's obsessed with not fumbling.

"You definitely don't want him scared to carry the football in a game situation," Drayton said.

That doesn't seem likely with Foster, no matter the media or fan criticism.

"Nobody likes to see themselves in a negative light, especially when you put everything you have into something," he said. "It's going to hurt but I take it for what it is.

"(Criticism) is not going to make me and it's not going to break me. I put my heart out there every time I touch the field.

"Nobody can say I don't."

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 229

hotrodvol writes:

he should not have anymore chances to carry the ball inside the 20 period!!!

vol1994 writes:

fumble!

vol1994 writes:

Not a fumbling problem? Yes every running back fumbles but the TIME the fumble occurs is crucial.

UCLA, South Carolina, and Penn state- we were driving for touchdowns and he fumbled. I feel bad for the young man but I think Hardesty should start and receive most of the reps.

Alumni_06 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

newtonrail writes:

When and if Hardesty has the same amount of reps as Foster, who can say how many fumbles he will have? Hm mm?

Vols1998 writes:

It is amazing how everyone who post on these blogs has never made a mistake, let alone play football at this level. Most of you just get off saying the first things that come to mind and it is normally so idiotic it shows your "ignorance". Leave these young men alone or go find another team as perfect as you must be.

Our 1998 team made plenty of mistakes, but the outcome swung our way, it is just the way things work out.

Get a real life!!!! bunch of losers!!!!!

Go Vols!!!!! do not listen to these jerks!!!

MrBamSeydu writes:

Hey Foster, maybe if you'd hold on to the ball and get into the endzone with it nobody would hurt your pour little feelings.

Hardesty showed you up last week, period.

Vols1998 writes:

Foster, do not listen to these hillbilly redneck, ignorant, drunken, LOSERS!!!!

Let then get out there and get hit by a 6'3" 245lb LB and they'll be sh@!*^ their pants for weeks :) LOL...these POSERS...(think they are Vol Fans) are really BIG LOSERS!!!!!!

GO FOSTER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Big Orange...WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vols1998 writes:

Tngeoff.....is a POSER!!!!!!!!! HE IS NOT REALLY A VOL FAN, but a BAMA Blogger!!!!

I traced his post, he lives in Huntsville!!!!

GO Big Orange!!!!!!

TommyJack writes:

Many of you are willing to cut CPF slack, year after year, after year. Give the kid a break. We need all our backs.

Jmxvo1 writes:

Fostermom needs to learn that "Foster's fumble was a key play in the game" is not an insult.
It was part of the game and to ignore that fumble and the impact it had on the UCLA game is basically not discussing the game at all.

Vols1998 writes:

I am calling on ALL REAL Vol FANS to stand up to these NEGATIVE BLOGGERS.....they eat at the very core of what a real fan is....do not let them suck you into their HATER WORLD....these people are lonely, pathetic, wanna-beeeeessss

BE a FAN and support your team, even during the bad times

I LOVE THE ORANGE and WHITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vols1998 writes:

JM is a HATER TOO!!!

DO NOT READ HIS POST.....another LOSER on the LOOSE!!!!

GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

straightshooter writes:

I have posted before regarding my thoughts of Foster.I want elaborate further regarding him. And on opening night we see the new revamped offense built around him. Were we satisfied with the results we got before! I give up on thinking a turn-around is in the making. This coaching staff is no better if as good than the first crew under Cutcliffe. If you can't learn from your mistakes and bad judgement you can never get better. This team will never get better under this coaching.

Vols1998 writes:

ALL negative bloggers are John Adam's Children of HATE!!!

JACH......and their full of CRAFT!!!

Thanks for the material JA....you hater!!!

Go Vols!!!!

krvols writes:

We should have given him and Hardesty the ball more. They both looked decent; they were certainly better than Crompton.

Vols1998 writes:

staightshooter is another hater...a JACH Member, and a wishy washy FAN.....who cares what you think?

These are 19-20 men, playing a real sport, enjoy it or find another team.

Orange and White forever!!!!!!

Go Vols........their are some who want you to win, but my life is not wrapped around it like these losers!!!!!!

GO VOLS!!!!!!!! do not listen to the Children of John Adams!!!

stevefrommemphis writes:

There is no excuse for this abuse of the players. There is no lack of effort from anyone. Mistakes happen, and a lot of those that do are caused by good plays by opponents. Criticize the coaches all day, but the players are off limits.

scvolalum writes:

Whoa! Lighten up on the young man. I bet you same negativity mongers won't say a word when Foster wins some games for us this year. Look in the mirror, losers.

ETownVol writes:

Posted by Vols1998 on September 6, 2008 at 10:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Tngeoff.....is a POSER!!!!!!!!! HE IS NOT REALLY A VOL FAN, but a BAMA Blogger!!!!

I traced his post, he lives in Huntsville!!!!"

Vols1998, you, sir, are an idiot. If you've been posting here for any length of time, you wouldn't make that statement. Maybe you've been here awhile and just choose to read what you want to read. TNGeoff calls it like he sees it and said nothing in his posts on this article that is negative of Foster. Just the contrary if you would scroll back up and read it. If anything it was positive for Foster. You really need to open your mind, eyes and ears.

Foster is a great running back and I wish him success, but his miscues seem to come at the most inopportune times. Call it karma or whatever you will but it is true. I hope the young man succeeds but he does need to learn how to hold on to the ball. That is a proven fact.

Vols1998 writes:

I do not care what you found or what I posted in the past.....I started reading all of this and decided not to be like all you pitiful lonely losers.....It's insane to allow yourself to get so wrapped up in what these 18-20 year olds do on Saturday......either be supportive or shut the hell up!!!

That is my new mantra.....I am NOW a supportive fan regardless of the Saturday score.

I hereby apologize to the VOL NATION and the players for all the stupid emotional reactions I have had....I am cleansed.

Now Tngeoff.....your full of CRAFT, and a JACH GOLD MEMBER!!!!

GO VOls!!!!!!

CoverOrange writes:

A bit disingenuous, Mr. Hooker, to give stats on the esteemed Mr. Foster and not reference it to anyone else's.

I have no doubt Arian will tuck it in from now on (or until we play SC). Just a lesson he has to relearn every so often. He didn't cost us the game, we had the lead at that point.

Vols1998 writes:

scvolalum.....I see you are a REAL FAN of the sport....thanks for your post.

Go Vols!!!!!

Vols1998 writes:

TurboFan!!!! you are absolutely 100% correct, great point!!!

We need to get behind these young men and encourage better play, and guess what? mistakes happen....it is what it is!!

Go Vols!!!!!!!!!!! do not listen to the Haters!!!

Vols1998 writes:

Hey mempuss....seems your name fits you purrrfectly

You are a hater too.....hmm not surprised you live in the western part of Tn...do they play football there??

Go Vols!!!! do not listen to mempuss...he is a loser too!!!!

pammyvol1000 writes:

Arian Foster is a young upstanding man that represents Tennessee and does his best. He came back another year to play for us and he is a great running back. He is also a human being and with that said.. please let's not dwell on the fumble anymore. He doesn't get in trouble, he leads the team and encourages the young guys on the team. He has good grades and he traveled across the US to be a part of the orange country.
I look forward to seeing him play this week as every week. Good luck Arian!!

ETownVol writes:

Vols1998,
If you refuse to be held accountable for your past comments then maybe you should just STFU and quit posting. You're just as guilty as anyone for allowing yourself to get wrapped up in what these 18-20 year old do on Saturday or you wouldn't be here. I hate that we lost that game but, hey, it's college sports. There are many things in this world that are more important. I still support the VOLS but it doesn't mean I have to be happy about their performance whether it's the coaches or the players. We'll see how supportive you are after the Florida game. GO VOLS!!!!

Vols1998 writes:

tngeoff....at least my comments were pointed toward the coach and unlike YOU, it's going after 18-20 year men....or maybe you like that kind of stuff....all I really know is your hater and a poor execuse of a FAN!!!

Go Vols!!!

Vols1998 writes:

ETownVol....your a JACH member and your kind of CRAFT is absolutely idiotic. I can change my attitude any time I want....an you can too, but that would mean being a real fan...well, that is not your style, is it??

Go Vols!!!

Vols1998 writes:

Well, it just goes to prove my point, anyone that disagrees with a haters, will get the same type of CRAFT the players get when they make a mistake.

Pitiful!!!

ETownVol writes:

TNGeoff,

I will heed your advice on this. Funny how people criticize the team in one breath then criticize the critics with the next. It's sad that some posters here seem to have a split personalities.

Vols1998 writes:

tngeoff....good for you, pat yourself on the back!!....I mean it....sorry I jumped on you, but you came after me too!!

Go Vols!!

TommyJack writes:

Geoff: You sure this ain't Moanin?

hotrodvol writes:

Hey, if you think about it the coaches didn't let him run the ball much in fall camp even though he was healthy, he should have got more contact.

...also, what about Crompton and the green jersey, maybe they should take it off more often, let him get rattled in practice.

I'm not a basher, just a hillbilly VOLFAN who bleeds orange, GO VOLS!!!

ETownVol writes:

Vols1998,

Yes I am a fan. Always have been and always will be regardless of wins and losses. And I've probably been a fan for a helluva lot longer than you have. And I'm not a hater either. The fact that I think last week's effort by the coaches and the players was substandard doesn't make me a hater. It makes me a fan. If I had no passion for UT Football, I wouldn't care either way. I was just defending a fellow poster while offering my opinion on a running back.

rep88 writes:

god what a baby hold on to the football and man up. thats whats wrong with tn these days to many excuses and not enough people men

Feared_Mustang_Package writes:

Message Board Mom. Sweet. We Arkansas now?

Feared_Mustang_Package writes:

rep88:

I heard that, I heard that.

I_Sweat_Orange writes:

Does anyone find Mrs. Foster's comments about Roy Adams disturbing ? She is alleging that he woos players with money and gifts and he's a UT booster. Hopefully it's just her being an angry Mom and nothing behind it. Why don't she just go down to Alabama and tell the news media about it next time. Freakin idiot !!!!!

Volalumnus writes:

Too many other backs sitting behind him for him to keep fumbling at criticle times and keep the others sitting.
There are a lot of guys busting their butts to play and end up sitting and watching this.

Vols1998 is what is wrong with the program.
Too willing to put a few individuals ahead of the entire program.

ETownVol writes:

Dash,

Oh nevermind.... you should just go join Vols1998 on the short bus.

Volalumnus writes:

Fosters fumble and Cromptons deer in the headlights is another product of our great coaching staff belief to practice at 75%

law_vol writes:

On a different note, Kirk Herbstreet needs to have surgery to remove his lips from Tebow's arse. Tebow looked like phooey most of the game, and didn't come alive until the 4th quarter after Miami was down two td's on a blown call and had given up. Tebow misses a wide open receiver down field and Kirk says its the receiver's fault. I can't wait for the gators to come to town.

Volalumnus writes:

So how long till we find out that UCLA is at best 4-6th in the PAC 10.

Volalumnus writes:

Can you imagine with the Chavis D of having the DBs sit 10-15 yards back how many wide open slant routes will be there to hit those speedsters in stride?

volfan4life2day writes:

I, think Foster is a very good running back. Everyone will make a mistake, it is how you respond to that mistake that should be concidered.

ETownVol writes:

They can talk all they want about how good Teblow is. I can't wait to see him get drafted by the NFL in the 2nd round only to be cut during training camp. As Jerkin would say I can't wait to ROFLMGDAO when he flops. Teblow the surgeon may be a great college QB but he'll never cut it in the pros just like all the other UF QB's.

Volalumnus writes:

volfan4life2day
I like Foster too, but there are just too many good backs behind him to be sitting while he fumbles when he does. Its not fair to them. Foster has been getting plenty of chances.

Orangeblood13 writes:

your still the man AFOS, pull it tight and run like you do baby! We all right, lots of upsets already in this young football season, it's how you respond that counts!

Volalumnus writes:

Unfortunately we will probably do for Teebow what we did for Alex Brown.

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