Praise for Tauren Poole
Tennessee Stat Book
The chip on his shoulder was acknowledged.
Tauren Poole also admitted playing with something to prove now that he's been given the opportunity to actually play.
But given the chance to deliver the message verbally that he's made crystal clear while leading the SEC in rushing through two early games, the Tennessee running back showed some restraint on Monday afternoon. That's been the opposite of his rushing style so far as UT's feature back, but with No. 10 Florida (2-0) arriving in town Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.), Poole is mostly content to let the numbers do his talking.
"I'm really just focused on being productive for this offense, for this team and just getting better," Poole said. "That's the biggest thing. It'd easy for me to say, 'I told you so.' But that's not what I'm trying to prove. I'm just trying to win football games.
"I've had the ability and just haven't had the chance to show it. I always knew that when I got my opportunity I was going to try my best to make the most of it, and I'm doing it. But I've got a long ways to go. I'm definitely not where I want to be."
Poole might still be looking for more, but after his first two games as the starter for the Vols (1-1) he couldn't be in a better spot on the SEC rushing leader board.
After opening the season with a relatively easy 110 yards against UT Martin, Poole really opened eyes with a breakout, 162-yard effort last week against No. 5 Oregon - including 111 yards in the first quarter. Thanks in part to his limited playing experience after getting buried on the depth chart last year behind Montario Hardesty, Bryce Brown and David Oku, that huge 15 minutes qualified as a career high by itself.
Hardesty was obviously established as the workhorse a season ago, and Poole wasn't realistically going to steal many carries from him. But the junior has surely strengthened a case early this year that the Vols could have benefited if he had gotten more work in the past.
"It's hard for me to say that, because Hardesty, the guy went in the second round (of the NFL draft), and I've never seen Bryce," UT coach Derek Dooley said of the two running backs no longer with the Vols. "So, it's hard for me to say if it was deserving or not. What I will say is, he's taken advantage of his opportunity as well as anybody has.
"If everybody on our team had the competitive character and the personal character that Tauren Poole has, we'd have a heck of a little squad. He's a special guy. I don't know how he's going to perform, and when I say special, I don't mean God just blessed him with all this ability. But to me, he's exactly what every competitor should strive for - and that's to play to your capacity as a player. Tauren is playing to his capacity."
Poole might disagree with that assessment, though he didn't reveal exactly how much more he expected of himself. Clearly the standards are high since Poole isn't satisfied even at the top of the rushing charts.
"If leading the SEC is going to make us win games, then fine," Poole said. "If it doesn't, that's fine also. I don't have to lead the SEC for us to win games, but if I have to, I will and we'll continue to work together with those guys in front of me.
"It's just my drive. My whole life, people have always told me what I can and can't do, and then that's just kind of my mentality. I always run with a chip on my shoulder, and I always play with a chip on my shoulder. I always approach each game like I've got something to prove."