Backfield eyes the progress to be made

The Tennessee running backs can see the problem.

Now they just need to do the same thing with holes and defenders.

The Vols are fairly well-stocked in the backfield, have posted some decent numbers in scrimmages behind big plays from Tauren Poole and will clearly lean on the running game offensively this fall. But it's not even close to where UT wants it to be now, and the problems at this point might require a vision check.

"The biggest thing for us as running backs is we just have to see it well," Poole said. "We've just got to read our keys, and when we're not reading, that's where the inconsistencies are coming in. I think (coach Derek Dooley) has been talking about specifically the running backs. We've just got to have great eye control and continue to hit it as much as possible.

"You've got to be very specific in practice. They always tell you, when you're tired, you've got to focus on the keys, focus on the little things and that comes with more reps. We'll get this thing right."

Poole apparently hasn't had all that much trouble spotting cracks or using them to spring long runs in camp, and he capped off another solid scrimmage last weekend with a 65-yard touchdown burst - the kind of big play he's become known for during 13 practices.

Of course, his other 10 carries netted just 22 more yards, David Oku was held to 33 on 11 attempts and Toney Williams averaged barely more than a yard per carry. Those numbers could be skewed by work in the red zone, but either way Dooley has emphasized shortcomings in the running game as often as success.

"It's a lot of things," Dooley said. "Certainly sometimes we're struggling blocking movement, but also it's also a lot of the fundamentals at the running back position. The first two steps, the eye control, what they're looking at, when to make cuts, so we just have a lot of work to do. A good running game takes a lot.

"I've always felt this way - the backs make the running game, not the offensive line. Everywhere I've been and we've run it well, we've had good backs and they bring it and they run hard and it brings energy to the (offensive) line. It's that old saying; you'd rather have a special back and maybe a not-so-special offensive line than vice versa."

With a new group of starters up front, the Vols figure to have the latter part covered.

Dooley is testing his eyes this spring too, making sure that Poole or somebody else in the backfield can fill the rest of the equation.

"I feel like it's my job to make plays every day, and we just work hard as an offense to continue to make big plays," Poole said. "They open up the holes for me, and I just work with what they give me.

"(Improving the run) is more of the team aspect of it because it happens so fast. You've got that SEC defense across from you, Chris Walker and all those guys. They're fast and you've just got to tone everything in and slow things down in your mind and react."

Before the Vols can do that, though, they have to be able to see things first.

Rough Draft: Walker took off his pads and immediately went into general manager mode.

The Tennessee senior had some difficult decisions to make as he started to put together the Orange and White Game roster, so before heading to the War Room he gently let down the player he originally targeted as the No. 1 pick. And though his buddy Matt Simms seemed a bit stunned to slip down the board as the two joked around after practice, the quarterback laughed it off as Walker the GM explained the most important thing was protecting his passer.

"We've got to get somebody to block for him first," Walker said. "I've got to go with an offensive tackle first. It doesn't mean anything if I've got a great quarterback back there and nobody to block for him.

"He's going to be on my team, period. But I've got to get somebody to block for him so he can perform at his best."

Walker and the rest of the seniors were scheduled to divide up the teams on Wednesday night before today's light practice, the last before the Orange and White Game on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Test Run: Gerald Jones had to sneak his way onto the practice field Wednesday. And though the senior receiver shouldn't have to do the same Saturday, if for some reason UT tries to hold him out of the Orange and White Game, he hinted that he might repeat the performance again.

"Hopefully Saturday I'll be healthy enough where I won't have to sneak in," Jones said. "If they're talking about not letting me play, then I might have to run out there a couple times, sneak a play in or two."

He only got one good play in Wednesday as he works his way back from a sprained ankle suffered last week. But that was apparently enough to keep him and the Vols happy, particularly since Jones still had some trouble cutting in his routes.

"We did a little two-on-two with the safety and the corner, and I snuck in there one time," Jones said. "Denarius (Moore) and Marsalis (Teague) were like, 'Get out, we ain't trying to get you hurt any more.' I snuck one in and got the ball though, so I was happy about that.

"Everything else is all right. Of course I'm not 100 percent, but I'm making progress."

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Comments » 11

Cldvols1 writes:

Keep workin hard boys, it'll pay off! GBO

UCFgradVOLatHEART writes:

first suckas!!!!!!

richvol writes:

I can't tell you how many times I have sat in amazement in Neyland and watched good backs run right into a pile when there was a perfectly good hole to run through. Dooley gets it. It's great to finally have a coach that focuses on the details.

I remember Fulmer's response to a reporter's question if he was going to get involved with the offensive line that happened to be struggling at the time...he said he didn't have time for that. So here's a former offensive lineman that had a pretty good rep for being a good o-line coach but he couldn't get involved with fixing the problem because he was too busy.

Well,there's your answer to what happened to Tennessee football the last years of Fulmer's tenure. Dooley,on the other hand is focused on the right things and will do a superb job in my opinion. Just give him time to get his players.

Muscle_Shoals_Vol writes:

in response to richvol:

I can't tell you how many times I have sat in amazement in Neyland and watched good backs run right into a pile when there was a perfectly good hole to run through. Dooley gets it. It's great to finally have a coach that focuses on the details.

I remember Fulmer's response to a reporter's question if he was going to get involved with the offensive line that happened to be struggling at the time...he said he didn't have time for that. So here's a former offensive lineman that had a pretty good rep for being a good o-line coach but he couldn't get involved with fixing the problem because he was too busy.

Well,there's your answer to what happened to Tennessee football the last years of Fulmer's tenure. Dooley,on the other hand is focused on the right things and will do a superb job in my opinion. Just give him time to get his players.

I agree. CDD is going to be the kind of coach we have all been wanting for a long time. Every day I like him more.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to MerlOT_GoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Explain please.

transplantiam writes:

in response to gnm53108:

Explain please.

gnm53108, shhhh! themerlot#227823 must have forgotten to take his meds! Let's not upset him to bad. He's probably ok when he's following Drs. orders!! lol He's just talking to himself again! lol
GO VOLS!!!

gnm53108 writes:

in response to transplantiam:

gnm53108, shhhh! themerlot#227823 must have forgotten to take his meds! Let's not upset him to bad. He's probably ok when he's following Drs. orders!! lol He's just talking to himself again! lol
GO VOLS!!!

Thanks.

Just didnt understand the merlot....guess were not suposed to.

I do know my boss likes reislings beter than merlots. My beverage of choice is brewed.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

It's unfortunate Rajion Neal wasn't able to enroll for spring practice,Ive watched tons of film on him and rarely have I seen a back that played at a college level in high school..He runs north and south with zero hesitation. No dancing around looking for a hole; just sees the crease and blasts thru full steam.Rarely is he even phased by the first tackler;just runs right by them..Reminds me of Chuck Webb..I realize he has much to learn coming in in the fall and it will take time but there is no denying his natural ability and vision..By sept. he will be the #2 back or better.Oku will be end up buried deep in the depth chart because he doesn't see the small holes and ends up tackled at the line of scrimmage..If you have any doubt just watch the film!!!

Vol737 writes:

I watched Poole last year at the spring game and said, "that guy has to play a lot". I'm glad he has shown better character than that last guy that coached here and has hung tough. I think Poole is dying to show what he can do now that he's going to get an opportunity. Give him a little open door and he'll kick it wide open and be off to the end zone. GBO.

scvols writes:

in response to swollheadjim#1383427:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We will see Saturday.

tnsportsman writes:

CDD is great at X's and O's, detailed training, tough hard practices, tenacious special teams and a winning last 4 minutes of the game! If CDD gets all that across to this team, LOOK OUT!

BIG ORANGE 8 or more regular season wins this year, BOOK IT!

GO VOLS!

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