Vols' running backs nicked up

Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole runs a drill prior to a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole runs a drill prior to a scrimmage at Neyland Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Dooley discusses the repercussions of Rajion Neal's knee injury

Rajion  Neal

Rajion Neal

Instead of lining up for valuable repetitions with the offense, running backs Rajion Neal and Tom Smith pumped their arms and legs back and forth on stationary bicycles.

That activity wasn't unique to Thursday's practice. It's been like that for the past week with Tennessee's running backs, as most, including senior Tauren Poole, have been hampered by nagging injuries.

"It's tough," said Poole, who sat out Saturday's scrimmage with a minor ankle injury. "Coach (Derek) Dooley always says you've got to play like you're the starter, practice like you're the starter and study like you're the starter. I know he's talking to every single guy out here, and I've got to continue to take care of myself.

"All of us do. We've all got little nicks and bruises."

Neal, who had been pulling double duty at wide receiver, also sat out Saturday's scrimmage because of a knee injury. The lone returning backup with experience, Neal isn't expected to play in this Saturday's scrimmage, either.

"We miss Rajion," Dooley said. "It weakens us up at runner and it weakens us up at wideout."

Poole's and Neal's injuries allowed Smith, a true freshman, to pick up 10 carries for 80 yards in last week's scrimmage. But now that he's down with a knee injury, carries beyond Poole have gone exclusively to freshman Marlin Lane, a variety of walk-ons and even fullback Channing Fugate.

"We're nicked up at runner and we're nicked up at receiver," Dooley said. "That's affecting us."

Behind Poole last season, the Vols didn't receive much production. Neal and former Vol David Oku combined for 371 yards and a touchdown.

Poole is confident Lane, who is said to be fully recovered from a 2009 knee surgery that slowed him down as a high school senior, can make life easier for him as soon as the season opener.

"Every day he comes out to compete, whether it's Saturday's scrimmage or just a little walk-through," Poole said. "I like that about him."

Lane, after struggling to gain yards in the Vols' first scrimmage, ran nine times for 42 yards in the second scrimmage. Because of all the bumps and bruises, it's expected he will have even more opportunities Saturday.

"I see a guy that has a lot of ability, but he's got a long way to go," Dooley said. "He's probably not running with the confidence he needs to run with and probably the grind of camp has affected him physically.

"We've got to get through camp, get him fresh, tighten him on a game plan and see if he can do it under the lights."

Down Again: Wide receiver Zach Rogers was wearing a familiar color Thursday.

It was neither orange nor white, which meant he was back in a familiar place — out with an injury.

Dooley said Rogers, who had emerged as the team's top option at the slot receiver position, was nursing a deep bruise in his right triceps.

"He's got durability issues," Dooley said. "It's a concern. All we can do is play him when he's healthy and not play him when he's not."

The injury is not thought to be serious, but Dooley did not provide a timetable for a potential return date.

With Rogers out, the door opens wider for freshmen Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett, but Dooley cautioned that neither player was not yet able to fully replace Rogers.

"There's a big dropoff," Dooley said.

"We lose anybody on our team, it hurts. It's just where we are."

Nagging ankle, knee and shoulder injuries along with a concussion derailed most of Rogers' sophomore season, which began with promise.

Also held out of Thursday's practice were linebacker Greg King (knee) and wide receiver Antonio Jones.

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson's rehabilitation from a sprained knee remains on schedule, Dooley said. He will not participate in Saturday's scrimmage, but has increased his workload in individual drills.

A Gray Matter: Dooley said freshman Tino Thomas was not opposed to grayshirting the 2011 season.

Thomas, a defensive back from Memphis, enrolled at UT for the second session of summer semester.

Because of "major" offseason shoulder surgery, he had no shot at contributing this year, Dooley said.

"There was no sense in burning the year of eligibility, and it's a great thing," Dooley said. "This is exactly the positive of grayshirting that nobody wants to talk about."

Thomas will continue to rehabilitate the injury back in Memphis, Dooley said. He is expected to enroll for the spring semester.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              865-342-6327      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 19

OrangeinCarolina2 writes:

I guess all these "nicks" are just part of a tough fall camp. Hope all the players recover so they can help this team be successful this season. Dooley is making progress in returning the Vols to prominence in college football. Looking forward to a winning season and a good bowl game. GO VOLS!

dvhill100 writes:

No pain, no gain. The more you sweat in practice, the less you'll bleed in a game (paraphrase from my Marine days). Make it tough. I want teams to be afraid to play us and sore afterward.

rockytopwestone writes:

It sure wood be nice to still have Toney Williams around NOW !

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Those young guys need brains like sponges so they can soak up all the coaching asap and be ready when called upon! I sensed a bit of frustration from Dooley about Zach Rogers being injured again!...anybody else? Hope these guys get healed up for the games!

VolGrad writes:

Rub some dirt on it.

DannyVol writes:

Zach may have some "durability issues" but there isn't much you can do after getting a deep bruise like that. Likewise, LB Greg King has seemingly been on the injured list his entire career. You have to wonder if it's a matter of technique for both guys. Is is bad luck or is there something they are doing during practice that contributes to their being oft-injured? You have to be able to protect yourself in this game.

mdboar#214875 writes:

in response to rockytopwestone:

It sure wood be nice to still have Toney Williams around NOW !

Did Toney Williams leave the program?

SanDestinVol writes:

in response to mdboar#214875:

Did Toney Williams leave the program?

he transfered to Ball State

GerryOP writes:

Tape 'em up and get 'em back out there. 15!

KevDVol writes:

in response to VolGrad:

Rub some dirt on it.

or some Robitussin.

trubleoj#657755 writes:

Just hit somebody already.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to rockytopwestone:

It sure wood be nice to still have Toney Williams around NOW !

Yes it would be nice to have Al Wilson too but it's not happening.

I just wish Derek Dooley would quit whining about what we don't have. The truth will set you free, but negativity can also backfire when kids are young and trying. Sometimes he has to stop the "talented, but" even if it's true. The glass isn't always half empty.

And I love me some Dooley so I will say it could just be the KNS writers repurposing old quotes over and over.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Players report injuries today that they would have been afraid to even mention to the coaches back in the 70's. I don't know to be concerned or not.

SpiralBound writes:

Poole's arms are HUGE! It appears as though Coach McKeefery is earning his wages!

VOLFAN4LIFEgovols writes:

in response to martinvol34:

Yes it would be nice to have Al Wilson too but it's not happening.

I just wish Derek Dooley would quit whining about what we don't have. The truth will set you free, but negativity can also backfire when kids are young and trying. Sometimes he has to stop the "talented, but" even if it's true. The glass isn't always half empty.

And I love me some Dooley so I will say it could just be the KNS writers repurposing old quotes over and over.

I wish Dooley would stop that as well. He even said it on espn and that can hurt team morale when you constantly hear your coach say "we have alot of young talent but...I know it may be true but I wish he would throw some positive things in every now and then. Look at vandys new coach he always speaks positive and its vanderbilt lol

gluesniffer writes:

in response to VOLFAN4LIFEgovols:

I wish Dooley would stop that as well. He even said it on espn and that can hurt team morale when you constantly hear your coach say "we have alot of young talent but...I know it may be true but I wish he would throw some positive things in every now and then. Look at vandys new coach he always speaks positive and its vanderbilt lol

positive does not sell as many papers

givehim6 writes:

That's it call the season, our boys just do not fill good I mean after all when your hurt your hurt right? Come on guys football is a mans sport. If you think it's rough now, wait till we are in the middle of SEC season. Or some the NFL those guys will put the hurt to you. So let's suck it up and play some football!

SevenT writes:

These guys play with pain

GO VOLS

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Malik and Poole should be having minimal contact until prep week for Montana..Both are seniors and know their assignments..No point in taking a knee sprain or sprained ankle and turning it into a torn ACL or season long high ankle sprain because you have a big scrimmage monday..You don't see peyton manning playing preseason games while he's nursing a neck injury..And this isn't that much different..Wake up coach and rest some of your big playmakers cause your going to need them when the season opens..Playing Montana is all the scrimmage they need to get sharp

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