Hardly an interview session goes by that a Tennessee player or coach doesn't mention the program's commitment to running the football.
There are 115 obvious reasons for this. That's how many FCS teams ranked ahead of UT in rushing yards per game in 2011.
Forty-one running backs rushed for more yardage than the Vols. Three quarterbacks rushed for more.
No wonder that the most noteworthy number of Tennessee's spring has been Rajion Neal's 100 yards rushing in the first scrimmage. It flashes like neon on a team that averaged 90 yards rushing per game last season.
A more relevant number for evaluating UT's improvement would be its 2.6-yard average per rush. That makes you question the health of anyone who carried the ball on the Vols' behalf last fall.
But regardless of UT's spring devotion to improvement, this won't be a running team in 2012, and not just because it's bereft of proven running backs. If quarterback Tyler Bray and his receiving corps can maintain good health and a good attitude for the entire season, the passing game could be dynamic.
There are advantages to being a passing team in a running league. Steve Spurrier beat everybody over the head with those advantages while dominating the conference at Florida for much of the 1990s. Passing played a prominent role in UT's success during the same period, although it also excelled at running the ball.
Despite all Spurrier and former UT quarterback Peyton Manning did for SEC passing in the 1990s, the conference has gradually returned to its running roots.
Alabama has won two of the last three national championships with defense and a power running game. Florida won national titles in 2006 and 2009
with defense and a power-running quarterback. LSU's recent prominence is attributed, in part, to its seemingly endless line of capable ballcarriers.
Runners should be even more prevalent this fall than last. Arkansas' Knile Davis and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore will be Heisman Trophy candidates after returning from injuries. LSU's acclaimed cast of running backs should go from four- to five-deep.
Vanderbilt returns a 1,000-yard-plus rusher in Zac Stacy. Even Spurrier's offense is more apt to beat you running than passing.
New SEC member Missouri has All-Big 12 running back Henry Josey and quarterback James Franklin, who rushed for more than 900 yards last season. Texas A&M, another conference newbie, has running back Christine Michael, who rushed for 899 yards last season in nine games.
Add up the running numbers, and you can figure out what should be the emphasis of SEC defensive coordinators. But the more intent they become on stopping the run, the more opportunities they could create for a passing offense.
If the Vols can capitalize on that, their running game doesn't have to be outstanding. It just has to be better.