Backfield In Motion: Tennessee's 1-2 punch in running game hitting stride

Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton (8) hands the ball off to running back Montario Hardesty (2) on Sept. 19, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton (8) hands the ball off to running back Montario Hardesty (2) on Sept. 19, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Montario Hardesty finished the fourth quarter looking like he was in the first.

Even better for the Tennessee backfield, by the end of the game Bryce Brown no longer looked like he did at the start.

It might be expecting a lot for the senior and true freshman to become interchangeable parts in the UT backfield, but if Brown can't quite carry the load on every down like the veteran Hardesty yet, they at least proved late in Saturday's 23-13 loss at No. 1 Florida the load is lighter when shared.

Hardesty's and Brown's next chance to share the load is Saturday when Ohio University (2-1) visits UT (1-2) at Neyland Stadium. The 7 p.m. kickoff is pay-per-view.

"You know, it's always good to have a guy that can come in and also play and there really not be too much of a drop in the game," Hardesty said. "I think our identity is when we have our (offensive) line getting out and getting moving on their man and getting assignments perfect, we are definitely a physical running team and that's something we can do good.

"It definitely wasn't a surprise running the ball because that's what we do on this team."

For a while it looked like Hardesty would have to do it by himself against the tenacious Gators.

Brown appeared uncertain of his cuts and how to attack early in his first road game, and Florida took advantage while holding him to 7 yards on four carries.

He just missed a big gain by not picking up his feet in the hole, misread another and then just couldn't find a gap later on UT's first scoring drive.

He picked up 10 yards on a second-quarter catch, but Brown didn't really look like the dynamic player the Vols expect him to be until midway through the fourth, teaming with Hardesty for every positive yard they picked up other than a penalty.

Brown piled up 24 yards on two quick catches, bulled his way for 16 yards on a couple carries and then gave way for Hardesty's impressive 17-yard touchdown that quieted a record crowd at The Swamp.

"We have some good running backs, and when those guys get their hands on the ball they're capable of making things happen," left tackle Chris Scott said. "If the line executes like their supposed to, they can do some big things.

"We knew if we executed, we could go down and score. That's the big thing for us because we know the capability of this offense and the things we can do with this offense. We knew what we could do, and we've seen how successful this offense can be. We just have to keep executing."

The Vols weren't able to do it for a full 60 minutes, and that will continue to be difficult without any semblance of a passing threat.

But it should help to at least have more than one option on the ground.

"We're going to correct our mistakes and get ready for the next game," Hardesty said. "We're going to continue to build because there were some things we can build on.

"This didn't surprise me at all. We have five seniors up front pretty much, so we definitely have guys that can do it. We believe in ourselves and the plan that our coaches gave us, and we just have to go out and execute it. There were some times when we didn't execute the plan, which is what you saw in the third quarter. That's something we can prevent."

There's not much they can do to stop growing pains or fatigue from having to carry the offense.

But Brown is working his way through the former, and Hardesty should have help with the latter - if he needs it.

"I don't know if (Brown) kept me fresh or not, but there's no thought going through my mind of being tired - ever," Hardesty said. "I'm a senior, I don't have any time to be tired now, man."

Brown could buy him some if it happens, though.

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Comments » 74

10cvalleyvol writes:

We are going to see more of what Brown can do for us as the season goes on. I am impressed with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

TommyJack writes:

Hardesty rocks. Too bad nobody figured that out til this year.

Atuss writes:

Hardesty is playing very well. Brown is very solid and will get a lot better. I am a UF fan and a Buc fan and have great respect for Monte and firmly believe Lane will get it done. I will be surprised if Crompton lasts much longer. He just has no feel for playing QB at this level. I mean, how about the throw away in the fourth quarter yesterday(should have been intentional grounding),running the ball never even entered his mind. You just don't see other QB's do that. I just can't believe Stephens is not better than this guy.

tennesseebee writes:

Let's not forget Oku and Poole

Orangebrewbasher writes:

Keep runnin hard, you'll be runnin on sundays if you keep this up.

CharlotteVol writes:

These guys are a good 1-2 punch. I just hope Kiffin has the patience to run and keep running. It's all we've got this year.

wags32 writes:

in response to Atuss:

Hardesty is playing very well. Brown is very solid and will get a lot better. I am a UF fan and a Buc fan and have great respect for Monte and firmly believe Lane will get it done. I will be surprised if Crompton lasts much longer. He just has no feel for playing QB at this level. I mean, how about the throw away in the fourth quarter yesterday(should have been intentional grounding),running the ball never even entered his mind. You just don't see other QB's do that. I just can't believe Stephens is not better than this guy.

My feelings EXACTLY there is no excuse to give Stephens a try NO EXCUSE! Unless you are trying to attract a big time recruit at QB the longer this goes the more it becomes clear as to what is going on.

OldRedneck writes:

Does anyone have Phil Fulmer's phone number?

The Washington Redskins need a coach and I hear Phil's available.

mdvol writes:

in response to tennesseebee:

Let's not forget Oku and Poole

Absolutely T-bee. Would like to see Oku get some touches. Hopefully against Ohio, Oku and Poole will see some action and then play more the rest of the season.

CRFVols writes:

Brown looks great catching the ball out in space.

I'll say this again....Hardesty had issues up until this year where he wouldn't get north and south and would try to dance too much in the backfield. I'm glad to see our new coaching staff has fixed that and made him the special runner he can be....but that says something about the last staff.

jdpvol writes:

Yes now that Hardesty is healthy he is looking more and more like the man in the SEC for this year, and Brown gained more confidence as the game went yesterday, he will only get better, CLK managed the QB(game)very well, If he and the coaching staff can find a way to make opposing teams to respect the pass, then this running game that is already a strong point for the Vols is only going to get better.

1Big_Orange_Fan writes:

in response to Atuss:

Hardesty is playing very well. Brown is very solid and will get a lot better. I am a UF fan and a Buc fan and have great respect for Monte and firmly believe Lane will get it done. I will be surprised if Crompton lasts much longer. He just has no feel for playing QB at this level. I mean, how about the throw away in the fourth quarter yesterday(should have been intentional grounding),running the ball never even entered his mind. You just don't see other QB's do that. I just can't believe Stephens is not better than this guy.

Agree with you 100%. Appreciate the post. It's nice to see that UF has some decent fans. We usually get to see only a few on this site and other than 99Gator or whatever his name is, they are usually rude and obnoxious.

whatcanbrowndoforyou writes:

I love our backfield! I love watching smash mouth football. With more game experience we will truly see what brown can do for the vols. GO VOLS!!

OrangeRush writes:

"I'm a senior, I don't have any time to be tired now, man."

Tell it.

VolnAL writes:

We know we can lose with Crompton; now lets see if we can lose with Stephens.

wags32 writes:

in response to VolnAL:

We know we can lose with Crompton; now lets see if we can lose with Stephens.

Exactly no one can come up with a good excuse why this should not happen no one i DARE someone to give a good reason! ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

arkyvol writes:

its nice to have a good running game. its even nicer when you have a passing game to go with it.

VolnAL writes:

Defense wins ball games but not without some offense. (PLEASE)

golfballs03 writes:

Is Stephens going to start vs. Ohio?

volfrommarion writes:

offense we got,QB we need.

VOL03_NC writes:

The growth I have seen with Hardesty from last year and then from the UCLA game, I think Eddie Gran is showing us his value to the Kiffen Train...
In this short time I think the growth has been well above expectations.
GO VOLS!!

VOL03_NC writes:

golfballs03 writes:
Is Stephens going to start vs. Ohio?

CLK says he is sticking with JC.
Stevens is not any better than JC. Hate to admit that but...
.

KiFFiNOMiCS writes:

in response to VOL03_NC:

The growth I have seen with Hardesty from last year and then from the UCLA game, I think Eddie Gran is showing us his value to the Kiffen Train...
In this short time I think the growth has been well above expectations.
GO VOLS!!

I agree with you about Eddie Gran....even though Kiffin's name doesn't have an "e" in it....Eddie Gran will be getting a pay raise at the end of this season....HE HAS US DEEP WITH SOME BIG TIME KIDS IN SOUTH FLORIDA....he knows how to coach running backs and better yet he has AWESOME ties with these big programs in South Florida!

Titan writes:

Enough with the QB conspiracy theories already.

Time for a test class.

Do you believe this coaching staff wants to win ballgames? (I hope everyone would agree the answer is . . . . YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff knows how to evaluate players? (Again - YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff will play the players that give us the best chance to win? (Stay with me now - YES)

OK now - having answered the above questions correctly, why would the coaches not play Stephens if they feel he is the best player and gives us the best chance to win? I don't have an answer to that question but don't ask me to believe that we're playing Crompton to lose games so we could possibly get better QB recruits next year.

SoFlaVol writes:

in response to KiFFiNOMiCS:

I agree with you about Eddie Gran....even though Kiffin's name doesn't have an "e" in it....Eddie Gran will be getting a pay raise at the end of this season....HE HAS US DEEP WITH SOME BIG TIME KIDS IN SOUTH FLORIDA....he knows how to coach running backs and better yet he has AWESOME ties with these big programs in South Florida!

You are exactly right about Coach Eddie Gran and his recruiting ability and relationships in South Florida. I would lock him down even if he couldn't coach just for his recruiting skill. We really need him to pull another coup by getting Chris Dunkley out of Pahokee this year just like he did last year with Nu'Keese.

SoFlaVol writes:

in response to Titan:

Enough with the QB conspiracy theories already.

Time for a test class.

Do you believe this coaching staff wants to win ballgames? (I hope everyone would agree the answer is . . . . YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff knows how to evaluate players? (Again - YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff will play the players that give us the best chance to win? (Stay with me now - YES)

OK now - having answered the above questions correctly, why would the coaches not play Stephens if they feel he is the best player and gives us the best chance to win? I don't have an answer to that question but don't ask me to believe that we're playing Crompton to lose games so we could possibly get better QB recruits next year.

I couldn't agree more that the coaches are in no way losing with Crompton and keeping Stevens hidden on the sideline in order to entice QB recruits. These guys that are posting to that effect are ridiculous. The fact is Stevens is not an upgrade over Crompton or he would be starting. He may play before the year is out if Crompton doesn't stop throwing so many INT's but that will be when Coach Kiffen decides the change needs to occur and recruiting will not enter into the decision.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Hardesty rocks. Too bad nobody figured that out til this year.

he reminds me of roger craig. he just keeps churn-in the legs and never quits.

few people may have noticed him juking spikes on one play. i didn't see it until they showed a replay of him getting a first down (i think the first drive that tied the game at 3) and poor ole spikes just couldn't get his hands on hardesty. he fell and watched #2 pass on by.

gatorhator4eva writes:

IT IS NOW TIME TO GIVE STEPHENS A CHANCE KIFFIN!!
CROMPTON HAS HAD TOO MANY CHANCES.

GahLee writes:

in response to golfballs03:

Is Stephens going to start vs. Ohio?

I will end all speculation........NO!

JohnnyVol writes:

in response to Atuss:

Hardesty is playing very well. Brown is very solid and will get a lot better. I am a UF fan and a Buc fan and have great respect for Monte and firmly believe Lane will get it done. I will be surprised if Crompton lasts much longer. He just has no feel for playing QB at this level. I mean, how about the throw away in the fourth quarter yesterday(should have been intentional grounding),running the ball never even entered his mind. You just don't see other QB's do that. I just can't believe Stephens is not better than this guy.

Atuss you're right. If Crompton makes a halfway effort at a scramble on that intentional grounding that wasn't called, he easily picks up the 1st down. Who knows what happens after that.

VOL03_NC writes:

DaMan writes:
Seriously, regardless of how this Kiffin era winds up (in 3 years) why all the hate for Fulmer?

No hate for Fulmer, he is an outstanding man.
Its Coach Fulmer that was not getting it done. Dont take my word for it just look at the recruting, scores, and the past 10 years. It went down...down...down every year. Remember when Clemson beat us in the bowl. It was not easy over here in NC for the VOL fan, because we suxed!

tnfaninga424 writes:

First since you are a Florida fan with some decency I will congratulate you on your team's win. Second, I agree with your assessment on Crompton. He cannot read the field at all. I remember in the UCLA game that we should have won there would be an open receiver right in front of him, but he would throw it to someone that was double covered. I believe that Nick Stephens is a much better option at QB. Last season he went 90 or 100 passes before he threw his first INT. While I don't believe he has as strong of an arm as Crompton, I believe that he has the ability to read the field and find the open receiver and better leadership abilities than Crompton.

CLK PLEASE GIVE STEPHENS A CHANCE

bigtimevol writes:

in response to wags32:

Exactly no one can come up with a good excuse why this should not happen no one i DARE someone to give a good reason! ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, there's ...,no. And, there's...,nada. Oh, what about..., no way. NEVER MIND.

US_Army_Vol writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

DrJCrown_theMagicMan writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yes he did...DAWoman it was while you were in the ladies bathroom.
He was on special teams

LibertyVolance writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Gave us a taste of WHAT? When are you going to move on? Just go fulmerfan. It's over. See if there is a junior high in Montana that needs a phys ed teacher.

chrisw2967 writes:

Stephens should get some playing time this week and maybe ,just maybe he will take the job from crompton.Just like one of the posters said , we know we can lose with crompton ,lets see if we can with stephens or the other nick.

utsandmann writes:

Hey, much love for Phil. He was a great coach and he did do great things for this program. However, he's gone now and Kiffen is in and, so far, I'm very hopeful about our future. I've liked what CLK has done to this point, and yes that includes sticking with JC. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Crompton is a great QB, or anything close, but I believe the coaching staff has more knowledge at evaluating a player than me or anyone else on this site. I have never been a fan of switching QB's in and out, we did that a lot over the last few years and where did it get us? Most importantly, while he did under throw two balls for int's, and while CLK protected him like crazy with the play calling, JC did show improvement this week and I hope he will get better. He's never going to be great, but he might be enough. If not, then he's gone after this year and fans will have to find someone new to complain about. Me personally, I'm here to support the VOLS. So, Phil Fulmer, thanks for the good times but good bye; CLK, keep working to make this team great and best of luck; Crompton, give us a 100% and I won't ask for anything more; and to the team, GO VOLS!

blitzshoot writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Hardesty rocks. Too bad nobody figured that out til this year.

How was he over-looked? The kid is amazing.

WinkeyVol writes:

Hardesty is toughern a pine knot. Go Vols!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Hardesty rocks. Too bad nobody figured that out til this year.

Some TV commentator said he needs to work on his East-West game.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

How was he over-looked? The kid is amazing.

Hardesty has looked like one of the best backs in the SEC.Maybe the best.
I don't know if Eddie Gran is responsible for all of this,if he is he needs a raise NOW!

jimr07 writes:

in response to VolnAL:

We know we can lose with Crompton; now lets see if we can lose with Stephens.

I don't know what kind of work you do, but i will bet Kiffin will make a deal with you. He won't try to do your job if you don't try to do his.

jimr07 writes:

in response to wags32:

Exactly no one can come up with a good excuse why this should not happen no one i DARE someone to give a good reason! ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

The most popular player on a football team is the backup quarterback. If Stevens was better, don't you think he would be starting?

jimr07 writes:

in response to Titan:

Enough with the QB conspiracy theories already.

Time for a test class.

Do you believe this coaching staff wants to win ballgames? (I hope everyone would agree the answer is . . . . YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff knows how to evaluate players? (Again - YES).

Do you believe this coaching staff will play the players that give us the best chance to win? (Stay with me now - YES)

OK now - having answered the above questions correctly, why would the coaches not play Stephens if they feel he is the best player and gives us the best chance to win? I don't have an answer to that question but don't ask me to believe that we're playing Crompton to lose games so we could possibly get better QB recruits next year.

Amen, Titan, Amen.

standfast#211788 writes:

in response to Atuss:

Hardesty is playing very well. Brown is very solid and will get a lot better. I am a UF fan and a Buc fan and have great respect for Monte and firmly believe Lane will get it done. I will be surprised if Crompton lasts much longer. He just has no feel for playing QB at this level. I mean, how about the throw away in the fourth quarter yesterday(should have been intentional grounding),running the ball never even entered his mind. You just don't see other QB's do that. I just can't believe Stephens is not better than this guy.

Atuss makes a good point. Earlier in his career, Crompton demonstrated a toughness and willingness to "tuck and run." He should be able to pick up 30-40 yards a game rolling out with a pass-run option or just running the QB draw. Jonathan is a big strong kid. This would add another dimension to our offense and increase QB productivity. If Tebow can run 25 times against a tough Tennessee defense, surely Jonathan could carry the ball 8-10 times a game.

GreerVol22 writes:

I love the effort in the run game. It finally looked on par with other teams in the country. QB is the issue. If we pass for even 100 yards more we possibly win this game. bring on Nick!.....either one of them.

GreerVol22 writes:

by the way, take a close look at the pic of JC handing the ball off. The look in his eveys tells the whole story...bag of hammers...

SIMSVOL writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Expected that coming from you DaMan -
The man is Kiffin - and he's here for the long haul. So get used to it - and get used to winning.

tenneesseeman62 writes:

in response to wags32:

Exactly no one can come up with a good excuse why this should not happen no one i DARE someone to give a good reason! ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I BELIEVE THE EXCUSE IS CALLED HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN.

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