Tauren Poole's got plenty to prove

Amy Smotherman Burgess/News Sentinel
Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole reacts after scoring a touchdown against Ole Miss at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010. Tennessee won the game 52-14.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Amy Smotherman Burgess/News Sentinel Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole reacts after scoring a touchdown against Ole Miss at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010. Tennessee won the game 52-14.

Tennessee running back Tauren Poole talks Thursday at SEC Media Days

The story hasn't changed, only the scope of it.

Once upon a time not all that long ago, it was two blue-chip recruits stealing attention — and playing time — seemingly just because they came with so much hype.

After one transferred, after winning the job from the other before he left the program as well and then heading into a senior season with some personal momentum, the theme remains the same.

Tauren Poole is now unquestionably the focus at running back for Tennessee, but the chip on his shoulder remains squarely in place thanks to a league so deep at his position that he was just barely able to sneak on the media's preseason all-conference squad — on the third-team, with the fewest votes of any player to earn the honor. But that hardly seemed to bother Poole at SEC Football Media Days on Thursday, as he only smiled at questions about the Year of the Running Back, his place in it and the chance to continue the theme of his career with another chapter.

"I'm not on a lot of lists, and that's OK," Poole said. "It's been like that my whole life. Coming out of high school I wasn't on a lot of lists, and that's OK, because that's the type of guy that I am.

"I've always been underrated, but I've just got to prove a lot. Right now in everybody else's opinion, I'm not very high (in the rankings). But in my own opinion, I feel like I'm a better back. I'm a great back."

Those aren't exactly rare commodities in the SEC this season, and Poole is always quick to offer his respect for the others that have made it hard for him to get much recognition this summer.

The league has two ready-made Heisman Trophy candidates in South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Alabama's Trent Richardson. The second-team rushers as voted by the media both piled up at least 1,000 yards last season, including the leading returner at the position in Knile Davis of Arkansas, who put up 1,322 yards with 13 touchdowns.

But the overall strength of the league might best be revealed by players like Poole, who carried the ball 204 times behind an inexperienced line in his first season as an every-down back for 1,034 yards and 11 touchdowns. Perhaps if the senior had more than 32 combined attempts in his first two seasons or hadn't been cast aside so quickly when Bryce Brown and David Oku were hailed as the future at UT, Poole might already be a more established brand-name back.

Although, that doesn't really fit all that well with the plot.

"I told Tauren that (South Carolina coach Steve) Spurrier said he had the best back in the league," Vols coach Derek Dooley said. "I told him I agreed with him. He just smiled and said, 'I heard that, coach.'

"Tauren is everything you want in a player from his drive to be the best. I wish we had 100 Tauren Pooles. ... He's got good size and speed for his position. He was inconsistent last year, but he was productive as a whole — and I think a lot of things go into that. No. 1, it was his first year playing. He wants to do well so bad, it took him awhile to get settled into the position."

The Vols also didn't have all that much support for him offensively, starting with the youth up front and including the lack of consistent help from a backup. Poole isn't blameless either, and he had well-documented issues with trying too often to bust a big run when a small one would have been good enough and occasional problems finding the right hole or cut.

But the offensive line is returning virtually intact from a year ago and should be much improved. UT has a quarterback in place with Tyler Bray that could take some pressure off the running game with his big arm. And Poole is coming back with a full season under his belt and, as usual, something to prove.

"I like to see the competition, that's what I'm all about is competing," Poole said. "I watch highlights and learn from each and every guy. I'm not a jealous guy, and I pretty much notice everything those guys do. I'm just saying to myself, 'What do those guys do that I don't do?'

"We all bring different things to the table."It's all set now for a feast thanks to the running backs, and there might not be anybody hungrier than Poole.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 32

dvhill100 writes:

Hoping he has a great year.

Mobbdeep4life writes:

Poole will have a productive year. As Dooley said he needs to be more patient and learn that sometimes a small gain is best. Looking forward to watching this offense grow up together. Can't remember a Vol's team like this one before but I can't wait.
How many days left?

thevoice writes:

Go Tauren. I'm thinking the running game this year will be indicative of the team's success, more than any recent UT team. Go Tauren, go!!!

nocleats writes:

in response to Unfrozen_Caveman_Volfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That comes from keeping your head up while leaning forward, then picking your feet up high when you feel contact. J Majors 101

VolGrad writes:

in response to Unfrozen_Caveman_Volfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

With an improved OL, all of that should be a bit easier than it was last year when he only hit the hole for just over 1000 yards.

:D GBO!

kletusfleabiscuit writes:

Lattimore and Robinson are the early favorites to lead the SEC in rushing. That's all good because they are both great at what they do,,,but so is Poole. Up until last year Tauren was relegated to obscurity but finally showed the critics that he is a true SEC runner. With his attitude, an improved O line, a passing game, Tauren Poole will impress and surpass a lot of peoples expectations. GBO.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

If Tauren stays healthy he'll have a very good year. Our defensive front and linebackers will have to learn fast but even early on people will have to out score us. I can't wait for football.

Go Vols!

VOLliven2it writes:

I am so looking forward to what Poole can really do and hoping to see our offense return to a position of being exciting. It has been awhile. I feel TP will have a very productive year and the Vols will show marked improvement over last year.

kletusfleabiscuit writes:

in response to VOLliven2it:

I am so looking forward to what Poole can really do and hoping to see our offense return to a position of being exciting. It has been awhile. I feel TP will have a very productive year and the Vols will show marked improvement over last year.

Ditto. Not to disrespect Coach Fulmer,,but his offense, in my little opinion,,,became anemic towards the end. CDD and his players brought some real excitement to our offense last season. We sure got hammered at times,,but the Oregon game showed a glint, a hint that we are moving in the right direction. Poole, barring injury, will get 1500 yards this season (write it down) and will relegate both lattimore and robinson to be second guessed. Okay,,que the trolls,,,it's about their time.

VolfanClinton writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Poole was terrible when Kiffin was the Coach...danced around before hitting the hole...Kiffin is a much better coach then Dooley too..at least we were beating Georgia and South Carolina when he was "coaching the team up "

kletusfleabiscuit writes:

in response to VolfanClinton:

Poole was terrible when Kiffin was the Coach...danced around before hitting the hole...Kiffin is a much better coach then Dooley too..at least we were beating Georgia and South Carolina when he was "coaching the team up "

You have got to be kidding. Poole ran for over a thousand yards last year because Coach Dooley gave him a chance. Poole can slash and smash with the best of them. Kiffin and all his "expert" staff somehow didn't realize what a great player they had. Coach Dooley brings with him a sense of honor, a student-athlete rather than an athlete-student mentality that will propel UT back into the limelight. Mark my words,,Kiffin will soon be an afterthought at USC where Coach Dooley will grow a legend at UT. Write it down.

VolSkins writes:

I Think three or four years from now, NFL Front Offices are gonna be sitting there, thinking to themsleves...."Damn we missed on him"

volsfannsc writes:

I'm sorry but I had to chuckle reading the comments. Theres been so much controversy about Dooley recruiting 3 star recruits and the lack of 4 or 5 star recruits. It's become a weekly hot topic everytime a 3 star signs with us. Remember when Kiffin signed Oku and Nukeese? Comments here read that we had the best backfield tandem in the nation. Well here's Tauren Poole, our own 3 star (per Rivals), competing with Lattimore and T.Richardson, our own "getting it done" "blue collar" Tennessee back. So much for Kiffin coaching them up. Good for Poole, and really hope that we learn (myself included) that Rivals is not the end-all soothsayer of player personel. Go Vols- Go Poole!

dragon18 writes:

in response to volsfannsc:

I'm sorry but I had to chuckle reading the comments. Theres been so much controversy about Dooley recruiting 3 star recruits and the lack of 4 or 5 star recruits. It's become a weekly hot topic everytime a 3 star signs with us. Remember when Kiffin signed Oku and Nukeese? Comments here read that we had the best backfield tandem in the nation. Well here's Tauren Poole, our own 3 star (per Rivals), competing with Lattimore and T.Richardson, our own "getting it done" "blue collar" Tennessee back. So much for Kiffin coaching them up. Good for Poole, and really hope that we learn (myself included) that Rivals is not the end-all soothsayer of player personel. Go Vols- Go Poole!

3* or 4*, can anyone that posts on these pages really tell a difference or predict accurately what type of player they will be as a junior or senior? I can't, all of these kids are absolutely freakish athletes. There will occasionally be a player like the Clowney kid in SC that seem they can compete in the SEC when they arrive. Otherwise it is about developing players and finding players willing to maximize the athletic talent they have. I feel that CDD is recruiting the type of player that will work hard and be the best he can become, but none of us will know for another year or so. Should be a fun year to follow UT! GBO!

Fryinpansvols writes:

With an inexperienced front 7 on our defense (only 1 returning starter in Malik Jackson with Lathers getting hurt) CDD will chew up more clock late in the game. Watch and see how our offense will put up some points this year folks. This is a dream for any coach to have a tough back like Poole in the back field who can drive forward to get those important yards to move the sticks. And like the article said if Bray can continue to build on what he did at the end of last year our offense will be very balanced. GBO and good luck Tauren!

CharlotteVol writes:

I liked hearing Dooley say he prefers a 2-back system - for Poole to put up consistent All-SEC numbers we need Raijon Neal (or whoever) to become a reliable second option. That is how Richardson put up his numbers last year. With Ingram gone, I don't expect Richardson to have the same results as #1 option. Lattimore, on the other hand, is a beast. Spurrier won't run a 2-back system but Lattimore will still put up mad numbers...if he can stay injury free.

GO VOLS!

hglover40#234154 writes:

in response to VolfanClinton:

Poole was terrible when Kiffin was the Coach...danced around before hitting the hole...Kiffin is a much better coach then Dooley too..at least we were beating Georgia and South Carolina when he was "coaching the team up "

Kiffin is a good coach - I think Dooley is too. Did you compare the players Kiffin had his year here and Dooley's last year? Go do that and count star power - also count the # contributing JR/Sr that each had. I suppose Poole's performance vindicated Kiffin a bit for not playing Poole more. He's no Hardesty, and not as fast as BB - but he should have been the 3rd guy in that year.

TommyJack writes:

TP is undervalued.

Docrok writes:

in response to hglover40#234154:

Kiffin is a good coach - I think Dooley is too. Did you compare the players Kiffin had his year here and Dooley's last year? Go do that and count star power - also count the # contributing JR/Sr that each had. I suppose Poole's performance vindicated Kiffin a bit for not playing Poole more. He's no Hardesty, and not as fast as BB - but he should have been the 3rd guy in that year.

I have to insert a comment here because Hardesty's Senior year he was a GREAT back, if you will remember his previous years were plagued by inconsistency and injury! Bryce Brown didn't show me speed in his carries more power maybe but he was caught from behind on several plays. Poole is now experienced and a Senior lets see how the season plays out with a more experienced line. I am not saying he will be better just saying it took Montario till his Senior year to fully develop.

givehim6 writes:

As long as Pool stays health he will have a good year, he has a better line to open holes, a good passing game means he will not be have to make a big run every play, plus he will have back up this year {forget the kids name } but last year there was no offical back up, this year he is the man. Look for Pool to have a good year.

hglover40#234154 writes:

in response to Docrok:

I have to insert a comment here because Hardesty's Senior year he was a GREAT back, if you will remember his previous years were plagued by inconsistency and injury! Bryce Brown didn't show me speed in his carries more power maybe but he was caught from behind on several plays. Poole is now experienced and a Senior lets see how the season plays out with a more experienced line. I am not saying he will be better just saying it took Montario till his Senior year to fully develop.

I remember when Kiffin was here - him not playing Poole was one of the only on-field moves he made I questioned. But after seeing Poole for a yr - I just think maybe Kiffin was right - that BB and Poole were close to equal. I'm just a fan and have no experience evaling talent Poole may be awesome this year.
He sure works hard- I sure hope he looks as good this year as Hardesty did his Sr yr!!

TommyJack writes:

in response to simmsagain:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Having no holes promotes dancing.

givehim6 writes:

in response to givehim6:

As long as Pool stays health he will have a good year, he has a better line to open holes, a good passing game means he will not be have to make a big run every play, plus he will have back up this year {forget the kids name } but last year there was no offical back up, this year he is the man. Look for Pool to have a good year.

Neal is the guy I was thinking about.

HtownVol writes:

I dont see why others do not see what I see of UTs Offense.

12 months ago we were ashamed of our O-Line, no proven RB, 2 QBs who had zero cred and a group of WRs that had talent but no WR that we could be proud of.

Compare that to where UT is now.

Tyler Bray may be the QB in the SEC that is expected to be the best SEC QB for the next 2-3 years.

The O-Line has as much talent as any O-Line in the country. UT can start 3 High School All-Americans on the line and they go 2 deep at each O-Line position with 4 star recruits. Experience is not on our side but UT fans are confident in this unit now.

WRs - Hunter in my opinion is the 2nd best WR in the SEC behind Alshon Jeffry (I will give credit where cred is due) DaRick had a good bowl game and he has all the tools to be a very good one. Arnett and Dallas are said to have the speed to complete the package. For once the WR group has the tools to be a great group with size speed and good hands. And we have one of the best WR coaches in the country.

RB- Poole reminds me of Hardesty. Hardesty had more talent but they both will not be outworked. Poole topped 1k behind what was the worst O-Line in the SEC, he will easily top 1k again, he would get much more but UT will be a team that sets up the run with the airial attack. And once again UT has a stable of highly recruited RBs on the depth chart.

One question though. I have not heard much on Cam Clear. Will Cam be a TE, and will he be on the 2-deep? Cam is the Tight End with the great size and if he can run and catch he can make this Offense complete.

Although Rivera did play very well when needed last season so TE will not be a big worry for UT.

And for the Defense, I may not have all the facts in this story but didnt Justin Wilcox turn down Texas to stay at UT?

The worry on D seems to be LB, we have almost no experience but we do have some players. We still have a Reviez,King,Thorton,Vreen, 2 SO's, Harris, and 2 Freshmen that were very high recruits in AJ Jonson and Meggit. Also I forget his name but one of the JR LBs was a 3 star recruit after being credited with almost 200 tackles in his Sr year in High School. I dont care where he played that is a amazing number.

Last question. Is Jerod Askew still at UT? He was a top LB recruit and I have heard nothing from him.

Sorry so long.
GO VOLS!

johnlg00 writes:

Go, Tauren, go! You and all the rest of the Vols have a golden opportunity to leave all the naysayers and doubters eating your dust. We true fans are with you all the way! GBO!!! CAN'T HARDLY WAIT!!!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Tauren had a 1000 yard season with an inexperienced and thin OL...I agree with others that say he will have an even better season because the OL has more experience and depth this year.

MusicCityVol writes:

Great line returning and a running back with lots to prove. Sounds like a nice recipe for a strong running game.

2011 Schedule Breakdown - South Carolina
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

agentorange writes:

here's some things that kns needs to put in stories about recruits and players even if it's just boilerplate stuff in the last paragraph: 1) height and weight; 2) last season's stats; 3) 40 time; 4) bench press; 5) where they are from.

volman2008 writes:

in response to Mobbdeep4life:

Poole will have a productive year. As Dooley said he needs to be more patient and learn that sometimes a small gain is best. Looking forward to watching this offense grow up together. Can't remember a Vol's team like this one before but I can't wait.
How many days left?

remeber the 1985 team.

oskie_score writes:

With the talent at WR and in the front six (AND if all remain healthy) I anticipate that Tauren (and Tennessee's overall) run gm will enjoy much success.

transplantiam writes:

You the MAN, Tauren. I've liked Tauren's running style since I first saw him on the field and felt he would be a very good back for us given the chance. Now that Kiffin and his "stars" are gone, Tauren has his chance. The only regret I have is this will be his senior year. If he had been given more touches back when he was a sophomore, he would have been better last year. I hope the beast comes out in him this year.
Go Tauren and GO VOLS!

DannyVol writes:

in response to VolfanClinton:

Poole was terrible when Kiffin was the Coach...danced around before hitting the hole...Kiffin is a much better coach then Dooley too..at least we were beating Georgia and South Carolina when he was "coaching the team up "

None of our backs were hitting the holes that year and like a lot of youngsters all had the habit of dancing or jumping outside.

"At least we were beating Georgia and South Carolina..." Were? Kiffin was here one season, which means he wasn't around long enough for the word "were" to reflect any trends. Meanwhile Dooley has also been here one season, so there hasn't exactly been a trend established with him yet either.

This is the first post I've ever read authored by you. You "were" an idiot.

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