Rajion Neal on competing for the starting running back position
Dooley answers questions about the Vols' offense
"It's time for a change. And time to change things we've been doing in the past."
Surprisingly, those words didn't come from a political ad on TV this weekend.
They came from Tennessee tailback Rajion Neal.
But when it comes to the Vols' running game, the above promise would win in a bipartisan landslide.
A graph of Tennessee's run-game production reveals a trend more dismal than Facebook stock values. The Vols bottomed out last year at 1,081 yards, a 90.1 average per game, the puniest total since 1964.
Neal, a junior, confirmed everyone is familiar with the unhappy data.
"They remind us but they don't let us dwell on it,'' he said.
"Everybody is moving on, not forgetting but putting it on the back burner and staying productive and positive as much as we can.''
There was nothing positive in the run department in these particular games last fall: minus-9 yards against Florida, minus-21 against Georgia, 35 against South Carolina and 61 against Kentucky.
I wouldn't dwell on that either. Better to declare a clean slate.
Spring practice was slanted toward improving the run. Derek Dooley hired a former UT star, Jay Graham, to coach the position previously entrusted to a grad assistant coach. Reviews have been uniformly thumbs-up.
Furthermore,starter Tauren Poole graduated. The job is up for grabs. Neal and sophomore Marlin Lane are the lead candidates in a crowded field that includes several incoming freshmen.
"I'd like to say we've got a preseason Heisman Trophy guy,'' Dooley said of the candidate pool. "We've got what we've got. I'm kind of excited to see who's gonna emerge.
"But any coach who says 'I'm excited that I don't know who my running back is going to be' is probably lying.''
Unless someone surprises with a Heisman-like August, Dooley doesn't expect to know who his running back is going to be on opening night in the Georgia Dome.
"It's probably going to take a few games to see who will emerge,'' he said.
If no clearly superior back emerges, that's not necessarily the kiss of death. UT has thrived with multi-headed running games in the past.
Come to think of it, so have LSU and Alabama as recently as, well, 2011. It turned out fine for them.
Still, at least one somebody has got to be productive. It could be a new face. Tailback is a position where a gifted freshman can hit the ground running, literally.
Neal, meanwhile, is doing everything in his power to win what he calls for now "a friendly competition" for the No. 1 job.
He averaged 5.0 yards per try last year on 27 carries, easily the best number on the team. And that was while dividing time at receiver. Lane averaged 3.7, the same as Poole.
Neal is no longer a split personality. He's a tailback, and Dooley is looking for a guy who can generate yards after contact.
Neal tailored his diet and his workouts over the summer to being physical enough to run between the tackles, rather than an elusive receiver.
Toward that end, he did the bulk of his weightlifting not with the backs but with the big boys of the offensive line.
"I wanted to bond with those guys and let them know how hard I'm working out for them,'' Neal said, "and vice versa.''
Time will tell if the tactic pays off. At least it was a fresh idea. That's a good thing.
It's time for a change.