Derek Dooley on the Vols' second scrimmage
A bit of ground seemed to have slipped away, and Marlin Lane had a whole week to think about it.
The Tennessee running back's main competitors for playing time each had productive outings in the first scrimmage, and the defense had effectively made yardage hard to come by for Lane.
Given another chance at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, the sophomore struck back at both.
The Vols again had multiple rushers post decent performances during their second live work of camp. But after his rough debut a little more than one week earlier, the projected starter on the pre-spring "organizational" chart responded with the best of the bunch as Lane perhaps re-established himself in the backfield.
"I had a bad week last week, and they picked me up," Lane said. "So I had to come out and not let them down.
"I was more focused and just trying to help my team and not let them down this week. I wanted to come out and just start running physical from the start. ... That motivated me every day, trying to get out there and compete and just stay on top with them and keep pushing each other."
Rajion Neal and Devrin Young had done the majority of the pushing previously, and each appeared to turn in decent afternoons again according to the statistics provided by the program from the closed workout.
But it was Lane who seemed to set the tone for a rushing attack that has been the primary focus for UT throughout spring, and his 71 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown represented a marked improvement from the 8-yard outing in the first scrimmage.
That bounce-back effort alone isn't likely to win Lane a starting job at this point, particularly with so long to go before a meaningful game is played. And the Vols also are continuing to get productivity from the other guys with Neal racking up 75 all-purpose yards on 14 touches and a score while Young chipped in 35 yards on the ground.
But after looking like he was somewhat on the periphery according to the numbers, at a minimum Lane ensured he remains in the thick of the battle.
"Marlin ran with a lot more toughness and aggressiveness, and it showed," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He had good numbers.
"I was disappointed in how he performed last week, and he was, too. Like good players do, he responded well. Had a good week, had a good couple of days toward the end of the week and I think he was ready to go out there and prove what he can do."
The Vols had an idea of what Lane is capable of since he broke into the rotation as a freshman last fall, though they might have only caught glimpses of his potential as he worked behind senior tailback Tauren Poole and with an offensive line that struggled to open many holes.
But with Poole gone, the Vols need somebody to fill the void — whether it's Lane, Neal, Young or some combination of the three. After a week of waiting for another big opportunity, Lane left little doubt that he's intent on staying in the conversation.
"As I come out, I know the (starting) job is open," Lane said. "But I just focus on going out there and doing my job."
"I just thought I had to come out and stay focused on running more physical. I just had to get my mindset focused on football and not outside stuff."