Neal 'physically ready' at running back

Freshman confident about contribution

Rajion Neal likes it when his team has to lean on him.

When it's time to pass on the passing game, the Tennessee freshman is ready to carry the load.

Come rain or shine, the 5-foot-11, 207-pound tailback from Tyrone, Ga., wants the ball.

That was readily apparent last October, when Neal helped lead Sandy Creek High School to a mud-soaked 31-13 win over Starr's Mill en route to a AAAA state championship season.

"That was a good game," said Neal, who is enrolled at UT for the first session of summer school. "And a game that everybody appreciated."

Neal ran for 252 yards on 29 carries in the game he described as a "slugfest". That was one of the performances that helped propel him into one of the top tailback prospects in the southeast, if not the nation.

"I would describe myself as a mixture of Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson," Neal said. " I can make people miss in the open field and hit the home run and I can be physical and get one or two yards when needed."

Neal accounted for over 1,800 rushing yards last season and 35 touchdowns. He committed to Mississippi State before being wooed by first-year UT coach Derek Dooley just before National Signing Day.

"It was just the love that coach Dooley showed and the man that he was when he sat down and talked with my family," Neal said.

An official visit to UT's campus in January sealed the deal.

"I felt like it was a place I could be comfortable at," he said.

Neal should be comfortable again on UT's campus. He'll find out just how comfortable he'll be with other college athletes during summer workouts.

"I'm very excited," he said before arriving on campus. "Man, I'm ready to come up there (and) get bigger, stronger faster, get into the mix and hope to be a contributor to the team next season."

Neal's role is undecided. Bryce Brown is expected to transfer but hasn't officially done so yet. Brown was UT's second leading rusher last season. Leading rusher Montario Hardesty is in the NFL. UT returns junior Tauren Poole and sophomore David Oku.

If there's an opportunity, Neal is confident he can seize it.

"I feel that I am physically ready," he said. "I've worked hard since the season has been over and I'm ready."

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Comments » 60

HtownVol writes:

252 yards...Yep UT is set at RB!

Bryce will be missed, but honestly we will not be hurting for a RB at all next year.

Mixture of "Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson". I sure hope so. If that is true he will be one of the best RBs ever!

USNVOL writes:

This kid will be a great player at Tennessee.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

We'll definitely see Raijon this season, how much depends on him.

Go get 'em young man.

FWBVol writes:

in response to The_Four_Horsemen:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree on surface it wouldn't be considered a slugfest, but sometimes a game is a lot closer than the final score indicates. Maybe Neal's team scored a couple of late touchdowns. Or maybe the game was close statistically, but turnovers led to it being an 18-point deficit.

Perhaps the kid has a different definition of slugfest than most of us, and called the game a slugfest because there was some smash mouth ball being played.

nocleats writes:

Got to think USCs penalties threw a huge monkeywrench into Kifter and BBs plans.. Im sure that based on conversations with the USC coachs" there was no reason to believe that USC would be in any trouble like this. Oh wait, it would have been illegal for those at USC to speak to or get word to Bryce.(sarcastic) I truly think Bryce would like to stay at Tenn, but he is hearing way too much mis information from his father and mentors and "former coachs"

doctorfingervol writes:

I have a feeling Mr. Neal's arrival will make us forget about the deparure of Bryce Brown. Neal's highlights are impressive and he seems to be a good north and south runner with good vision and speed.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVZ1I-...

vol75 writes:

Bryce who? You gotta love the name Raijon. That's a man. Just wish I could hear how John Ward would say it. "Raijon ragin' down the sideline!" "The Rage- give him six." That Big Orange machine is getting ready to roll...

OrangePride writes:

There is no doubt that Bryce Brown is a heckuva running back and he showed real promise last season. I hate to lose him, but between Poole (who is drastically underrated in my view), Oku, and now Neal, RB looks to be in good shape. And frankly, I think Brown is going to miss Tennessee a lot more than Tennessee is going to miss Brown. GO VOLS!

GerryOP writes:

Sounds good Raijon ... bring it on! Welcome to Big Orange Country!

80 -- Fear The Dooley Dude...

UTByrd writes:

I know one thing for sure, Rajion will be spectacular returning punts and kickoffs not to mention out of the backfield.
One cut and see you later or run over and through the defenders, he's got it all.
I don't know anything about his blocking but that can be learned.
Go VOLS!!!!!

oskie_score writes:

A solid back, look for his playing wt to be around 225lbs. Each (Neal, Oku, and Poole) style should compliment the other.

CDD likes to utilize multiple (2 sometimes 3) TE's in his formations and, it appears, has put an emphasis on recruiting TE's but it would not be a surprise if CDD moved the majority to the interior line where (once "beefed up") they could use their athleticism and foot work to their advantage---a powerful but quick-a-foot OL creates greater flexibility in play calling.

orangecountyvols writes:

Folks are forgetting one more.............Tony Williams. Add him to the others mentioned, plus Neal, and that sounds a lot like running back depth.

peyton4prez writes:

too bad talking isn't running the football and running the football is all that matters. hope he is as good as he advertises.

516milesfromUT writes:

GIVE YOUR ALL FOR TENNESSEE.
my definition for a slug fest is...................... nevermind!
G
B
O

nicknack1 writes:

I don't know, he sure sounds like he has it all. Kinda reminds me of a Kiffin player, by the way he talks. I hope he does great here and puts up big numbers. Yeah, Toney Williams is pretty good too, he's big and can run fast. Good luck this year.

VOLinAthensGA writes:

in response to nocleats:

Got to think USCs penalties threw a huge monkeywrench into Kifter and BBs plans.. Im sure that based on conversations with the USC coachs" there was no reason to believe that USC would be in any trouble like this. Oh wait, it would have been illegal for those at USC to speak to or get word to Bryce.(sarcastic) I truly think Bryce would like to stay at Tenn, but he is hearing way too much mis information from his father and mentors and "former coachs"

Pretty much every source that has been close to the situation has stated that Bryce's issue stems from being too far from home. He wants to be closer, like KSU, and play with his brother who left Miami. Bryce has done nothing but be a model first year student athlete who seemed quite content to do his job on the field, keep quiet, and out of trouble. He has never indicated that he wanted to follow Kiffin and these problems arose prior to Kiffin's departure. The fact that Dooley has kept him in the mix this long should be a credit to both of their character. Get your facts straight. None of our players have indicated they wanted to follow Kiffin into the sewer of the PAC-10.

Ironcity writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Folks are forgetting one more.............Tony Williams. Add him to the others mentioned, plus Neal, and that sounds a lot like running back depth.

Tony is not right yet. Likely will not see much from him this year.

mercuryvol writes:

in response to VOLinAthensGA:

Pretty much every source that has been close to the situation has stated that Bryce's issue stems from being too far from home. He wants to be closer, like KSU, and play with his brother who left Miami. Bryce has done nothing but be a model first year student athlete who seemed quite content to do his job on the field, keep quiet, and out of trouble. He has never indicated that he wanted to follow Kiffin and these problems arose prior to Kiffin's departure. The fact that Dooley has kept him in the mix this long should be a credit to both of their character. Get your facts straight. None of our players have indicated they wanted to follow Kiffin into the sewer of the PAC-10.

Right on ViAG;Pretty much the only post I've read that makes sense out of the BB situation.

wazzya69vol writes:

in response to VOLinAthensGA:

Pretty much every source that has been close to the situation has stated that Bryce's issue stems from being too far from home. He wants to be closer, like KSU, and play with his brother who left Miami. Bryce has done nothing but be a model first year student athlete who seemed quite content to do his job on the field, keep quiet, and out of trouble. He has never indicated that he wanted to follow Kiffin and these problems arose prior to Kiffin's departure. The fact that Dooley has kept him in the mix this long should be a credit to both of their character. Get your facts straight. None of our players have indicated they wanted to follow Kiffin into the sewer of the PAC-10.

Good job with a different perspective for a change. I agree with you concerning both having good character until proven otherwise. I think CDD is taking the high road in how he treats current recruits/players as well as those who chose to leave. I am very much aware that the true test comes in the Fall, but until then, I like the way he is running our program.

LawVol52 writes:

Also, Reggian Peterush has predicted he'll rush for 4200 yards this season and that he does not, in fact, have a problem with being ambitious.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Why would you wanna be like Reggie Bush? And its only June of your Freshman year, lets hold off on the AP comparisons until I see you slice and cut up a SEC defense. Go get em...

DannyVol writes:

I think we could have a surprisingly good team if the o-line progresses and beefs up. If that happens and Simms is simply an efficient manager of the game, who knows? We are solid at receiver, borderline stellar at running back, and the defense could be very good at all positions. Plus, poor special teams lost us a bunch of close games over the past three years, so expected improvement there will be a big bonus.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Got RB's, now let's get some road graders and big stoppers for what makes them and the team go.

Then we'll win.

jaden writes:

Rajion will come in and work hard.In the off season he has worked hard to get stronger and faster.He was clocked on the hand held the week before enrolling in summer school at 4.24 and 4.29 in the 40 on grass in cleats where it matters with a handheld.I even heard that he out ran Rogers since they been in school.This kid will be just find.Never been over hyped or given anything.Always had to compete and earned everything he has gotten,so he want stop working now.He's gonna go hard.

10volunteers98 writes:

Glad to have you as a Vol,Mr.Neal.Mr.Brown,don`t let the door hit you in the anus on the way out.So long.GO,VOLS!!!

gnm53108 writes:

in response to jaden:

Rajion will come in and work hard.In the off season he has worked hard to get stronger and faster.He was clocked on the hand held the week before enrolling in summer school at 4.24 and 4.29 in the 40 on grass in cleats where it matters with a handheld.I even heard that he out ran Rogers since they been in school.This kid will be just find.Never been over hyped or given anything.Always had to compete and earned everything he has gotten,so he want stop working now.He's gonna go hard.

Thanks jaden.

He's making me think of Shawn Bryson.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

Hey did you guys see Jordan McRae at PRTL?? This kid has the most potential of any incoming freshman I've seen at UT since I've been here.

As for this RB, who cares? Football season is lame and all these jaded fans think they're gonna get more than they expect from a blue-collar coach and a depleted roster.

Since all you brainwashed rednecks post on basketball articles and make smart-alec remarks like "You know football season starts first," and "Tennessee isn't a basketball school," and all that BS, here's a little back.

OH WELL!! At least we can look forward to basketball season, which will surely be another where they outshine the football team. You know, the way they've done that for THE PAST 4 YEARS.

DasBoone writes:

in response to nocleats:

Got to think USCs penalties threw a huge monkeywrench into Kifter and BBs plans.. Im sure that based on conversations with the USC coachs" there was no reason to believe that USC would be in any trouble like this. Oh wait, it would have been illegal for those at USC to speak to or get word to Bryce.(sarcastic) I truly think Bryce would like to stay at Tenn, but he is hearing way too much mis information from his father and mentors and "former coachs"

Did this story have anything to do with USC? No. Hopefully we can establish a strong running game and use the stable of backs that we have to limit the pressure on the quarterback. That is what Dooley has shown he likes to do in the past. Taco's Rule

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to vol75:

Bryce who? You gotta love the name Raijon. That's a man. Just wish I could hear how John Ward would say it. "Raijon ragin' down the sideline!" "The Rage- give him six." That Big Orange machine is getting ready to roll...

Good stuff. Here we are 12 years later and Vol fans still want to hear John Ward call the games. I sure miss him...

PHAT_VOL writes:

What happened to Toney Williams?

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Neal is a great steal in this class..I urge any that have not seen the youtube film to watch at least twice..Best word to describe him is "Fluid".. He has a great natural stride and a lot of his ability can be seen when you watch his hip movement..No matter where he is on the field; he his going north and south almost never breaking stride..Once he is comfortable with the system and the Oline anything is possible!! I suspect in the SEC we will see a lot of runs stopped at the line of scrimmage because Neal's style is to immediately see and commit to holes but as we all know in the sec LB's fill those gaps quickly;But that's what fullbacks are for

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

Good stuff. Here we are 12 years later and Vol fans still want to hear John Ward call the games. I sure miss him...

Me too!! I wish he'd come out of retirement... Bob Kesling is a douche bag!

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

HS games and stats don't mean that much. You are not facing 11 guys who, in HS, where THE best players on their teams.

I'm thinking one of Bryce Brown's issues may be he is thinking about how hard he was hit in SEC play last season. All these kids have to learn that. For every lazy dunce Albert Hayneswoth, there are 10 hungry John Hendersons in the SEC trying to get NFL attention. You know, the guys who want to make some millions to set up their families for life. These guys run hard, and they HIT like trucks.

So, this kid has some proving up to do.

Volunatic writes:

I definitely liked what I saw in his highlight reels from HS. He might turn out to be a better TB than Bryce Brown. We'll see.

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Why would you wanna be like Reggie Bush? And its only June of your Freshman year, lets hold off on the AP comparisons until I see you slice and cut up a SEC defense. Go get em...

Agree. The ones that do the big talking usually don't deliver. They were studs in high school and developed big mouths, then they run into SEC defenses and learn to shut-up and develop more or they bluster their way out of town. Bryce Brown wasn't much compared to Trent Richardson. I seriously would be surprised if he comes back. Richardson accepted playing behind Mark Ingram, kept his mouth shut, and proved what he could do on the field, not in the papers. Hardesty proved himself the hard way. That's the kind of players I want. Better chances they stay out of trouble, too.

IBleedOrange444 writes:

Don't forget about Tony Williams, KNS.

jaden writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Agree. The ones that do the big talking usually don't deliver. They were studs in high school and developed big mouths, then they run into SEC defenses and learn to shut-up and develop more or they bluster their way out of town. Bryce Brown wasn't much compared to Trent Richardson. I seriously would be surprised if he comes back. Richardson accepted playing behind Mark Ingram, kept his mouth shut, and proved what he could do on the field, not in the papers. Hardesty proved himself the hard way. That's the kind of players I want. Better chances they stay out of trouble, too.

He's not bragging or anything he is just comparing himself to there playing style.This kid is very quiet and has never bragged on himself.When he signed the first thing he said he wanted to come 2to Tenn and learn behind a great talent like Bryce and contribute in any way he could.This kid works hard and you want find a more humble person.Just sit back and watch him make believers out of all the disbelievers.

VolunteerLifer writes:

For his own sake, Bryce Brown should stay at Tennessee and, if the rules allow, reshirt this season and come back next year for spring practice and show himself what he's made of. If he decides to stay, he should not be allowed to compete for a major role on the team this season given that he deliberately sat out of spring practice. If he decides to leave, I don't think it hurts us very much.

VOLliven2it writes:

DC_BLAH,BLAH,BLAH, come on back after the season. You appear to know so much. Let's just see. Yes, UT has many variables of uncertainty. A number of other teams have likewise. I have no idea how many games they will win but I am for them in every one. I hope you are the same for YOUR team whomever that is.

Patriotdad writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Agree. The ones that do the big talking usually don't deliver. They were studs in high school and developed big mouths, then they run into SEC defenses and learn to shut-up and develop more or they bluster their way out of town. Bryce Brown wasn't much compared to Trent Richardson. I seriously would be surprised if he comes back. Richardson accepted playing behind Mark Ingram, kept his mouth shut, and proved what he could do on the field, not in the papers. Hardesty proved himself the hard way. That's the kind of players I want. Better chances they stay out of trouble, too.

Rajion is hardly the "mouthy" type. I watched this young man play every game for four years and NEVER has he had an ego. The real highlights that you should see are the ones where after every series he's on the sidelines thanking his O-Line! Guys with egos and big mouths don't do that. Rajion will work hard and do what he needs to do.

Volunatic writes:

in response to RichRollin:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ouch!
I sure hope he's not like Reggie Bush in THAT way...

OhioVol3 writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Exactly! I've been telling people this for years. They used a computer to break down Ben Johnson's World Record 100M time to see what his 40yd. time was in that race. Time- 4.36. And that was the fastest a human being has ever run in 100M, under perfect conditions, racing against the best competition, in spikes...AND he was a notoriously fast starter (youtube the race...looks like he was shot out of a cannon).

Moral of the story- anyone who says they run a 4.40, besides Jeff Demps from Florida, is blatantly lying.

And you're exactly right about the .20- human reaction time is around .20 seconds. So, a 4.40 that starts on the runner's movement is really a 4.60.

jaden writes:

in response to OhioVol3:

Exactly! I've been telling people this for years. They used a computer to break down Ben Johnson's World Record 100M time to see what his 40yd. time was in that race. Time- 4.36. And that was the fastest a human being has ever run in 100M, under perfect conditions, racing against the best competition, in spikes...AND he was a notoriously fast starter (youtube the race...looks like he was shot out of a cannon).

Moral of the story- anyone who says they run a 4.40, besides Jeff Demps from Florida, is blatantly lying.

And you're exactly right about the .20- human reaction time is around .20 seconds. So, a 4.40 that starts on the runner's movement is really a 4.60.

Its people out there are faster but don't have the right technique and don't know the proper way to run.Rajion 40 times that are recorded on the scouting sites were done in mid spring 09.He has worked hard on his technique and got alot stronger since then.That's why i said it was handheld and i think he is a legit mid 4.3's.Just ask Rogers.

ALL_VOL75 writes:

in response to VOLinAthensGA:

Pretty much every source that has been close to the situation has stated that Bryce's issue stems from being too far from home. He wants to be closer, like KSU, and play with his brother who left Miami. Bryce has done nothing but be a model first year student athlete who seemed quite content to do his job on the field, keep quiet, and out of trouble. He has never indicated that he wanted to follow Kiffin and these problems arose prior to Kiffin's departure. The fact that Dooley has kept him in the mix this long should be a credit to both of their character. Get your facts straight. None of our players have indicated they wanted to follow Kiffin into the sewer of the PAC-10.

well said Athens VOL...I find it interesting that Bryce has not (yet) asked for his release. It is getting a bit late in the game for a transfer, he has missed the chance to register for any first semester summer classes at would be new school (KSU). I haven't given up hope on this young man, and I tend to think there is more to this story than any of us really know. I hope to see him back in Knoxville where fans and teammates alike, make him feel at "home".

oskie_score writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Folks are forgetting one more.............Tony Williams. Add him to the others mentioned, plus Neal, and that sounds a lot like running back depth.

Agreed, good depth @ RB but w/ Neal, Oku and Poole healthy CDD won't push Toney's (rehab) comeback.
Barring injury to the 3 mentioned above Tom Harris (if/when signed) will likely redshirt.

jesusvol4 writes:

I hope all the players are getn the same kind of attitude! (if so, look out)

volboy81 writes:

speaking of Georgians...heres a good read for Vol fans: http://www.dawgsports.com/2010/6/8/15...

GO VOLS!

bUTchVFL writes:

Bryce could also be worried that K State may be in the SunBelt by the time he gets there.

AllVols writes:

It may be hard for some to realize but Bryce Brown is not out of the picture completely. It is solely up to him to return, and the rumors don't favor his reappearance in the UT football program. However, there is still a chance for him to come around, and it will be up to his team to welcome him back.

Raijon Neal will perform well for UT. Tauren Poole is going to carry the load for UT, in my honest opinion. He is a decent tailback poised to perform. With the commitment of Tom Smith, I think UT has a solid foundation at the RB position if he honors that commitment.

I would look for UT to go after some speedy backs in the near future, such as, Chevelle Buie and Romar Morris.

sm1 writes:

in response to doctorfingervol:

I have a feeling Mr. Neal's arrival will make us forget about the deparure of Bryce Brown. Neal's highlights are impressive and he seems to be a good north and south runner with good vision and speed.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVZ1I-...

A few observations from watching the video:

1. Either Mr. Neal is very fast, or all the would-be-tacklers are very slow.

2. He seems to have very good elusiveness and shiftiness.

3. He seems to have very good balance.

4. He can definitely break the tackles of the smaller defensive backs.

Some might say that he remains too vertical when running between the tackles (i.e., not enough downhill lean). But that can certainly be corrected. All-in-all I say Mr. Neal looks like a very good get for the Vols. JMHO

Thanks for the link, and GBO!

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