Andrew Gribble: Projected mid-round pick Tauren Poole acting on scouts' feedback

Tauren Poole has heard it all since his Tennessee career came to a close earlier than he had hoped.

Even before the running back made his infamously honest and telling comments after the Kentucky loss, Poole already had received plenty of fan feedback about some of his less-than-stellar performances throughout a disappointing senior season.

"For them to criticize me, I didn't take it to heart," Poole said in a recent interview. "I know that they want to see their program be so successful. They want to be the players be successful.

"It's all about how you handle it. You have to speak the truth and the truth hurts. But it makes you better."

In the months since he ran for just 32 yards on nine carries against the Wildcats, Poole has apparently done just that. It's not exactly a common occurrence for a running back who didn't see much playing time in his first two seasons and ran for less than 4 yards per carry as a senior to get the NFL draft buzz Poole has generated.

He heads into this weekend's NFL Combine in Indianapolis more confident, perhaps, than he was with the ball in his hands all throughout the 2011 season.

"Whatever happens from here on forward is going to happen," Poole said. "I just have to work for everything I get and that's the way I'm thinking now. You never know what's going to happen on draft day."

Among the zillion or so mock drafts that are floating all over the Internet, Poole's name is a common fixture in the middle of the pack. CBS Sports ranks him as the 12th-best running back available — sandwiched between Florida's Chris Rainey and Ohio State's Dan Herron — and picks him to go in the fourth round. ESPN Scouts Inc. doesn't project a landing spot for Poole, but has him ranked 15th among running backs.

So, a little worse than former Vol Montario Hardesty (second round, 2010) but a lot better than Arian Foster (undrafted, 2009). Considering that 29 running backs were selected in last year's draft, it would be one heck of a surprise if Poole suffered a similar fate as Foster.

"(Scouts) like my toughness and my passion for the game, the way I run the football," Poole said. "I guess I got to capitalize on those things and get better overall."

Since the week Poole spent last month at the Shrine Bowl, an event in which he was presented with the Pat Tillman Award for "best exemplifying character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service," the folks at ESPN Scouts Inc. and CBS Sports have had plenty of time to carve up and dissect every positive and negative Poole would bring to an NFL franchise.

ESPN Scouts Inc. is a fan of Poole's durability (played in 38 games without a major injury) and his intangibles — "Intelligent, hardworking young man. Is mature and handles his business on the field and in the classroom." They don't feel the same way about his height (5-foot-10, which is slightly too tall), his weight (215, a little on the heavy side) and his speed (last clocked at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

Going into even greater detail, ESPN Scouts Inc. raves about Poole's vision/patience — "Is patient and will let his blocks develop, but he's also a decisive runner that always seems to be working to get north."

But the they are concerned about what he can do in the passing game — "Is limited as a route runner and shows some stiffness when attempting to adjust to a poorly thrown ball."

This is a different kind of criticism for Poole. He can actually do something about it.

Poole, who is working out with a number of other future NFL players in Boca Raton, Fla., said he's focused on dropping his body fat and increasing his flexibility.

"I can already tell there's a difference in my body," Poole said. "People that see me now think I'm the skinniest man in the world because I've lost a lot of fat. I like seeing the big changes and the results coming through.

"As long as I continue to work hard and do what I need to do, just playing and stay the course, I should be fine."

Though Poole made comments that may have indicated otherwise, that's exactly how he feels when he reflects on his career with the Vols. He wouldn't change a thing, he said, because "it built me up and broke me down."

"This is who I am," Poole said. "I'll never look back and say I wish I never went through it."

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

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Comments » 23

flatrock writes:

Good luck to T. Poole, a class act (sure wish you had had a QB who bothered to learn how to read defensive fronts- and how to check you out of plays that were out-numbered at the point-of-attack from the snap!).

MidTennVol writes:

Best of luck to you, T. Always a Vol, always a VFL. Thanks for wearing the orange and white. Look forward to great things from you.

iowavol writes:

in response to flatrock:

Good luck to T. Poole, a class act (sure wish you had had a QB who bothered to learn how to read defensive fronts- and how to check you out of plays that were out-numbered at the point-of-attack from the snap!).

Agree. It would be interesting to see his YPC between Simms and Bray at QB. Hopefully, Tyler is becoming a student of the game and realizing he needs to better at reading defenses. Regardless, best of luck to Tauren. A chance to be another one of Fulmer's recruits making it on Sundays.

bearbull95#206250 writes:

Best of the best for you, Tauren. It took a lot of character for you to say what you said when you said it; that was borne out when you won the award from the Shrine Bowl. Keep working on getting better and thanks for being a Vol.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Maybe I'm missing something but, what part of : "(5-foot-10, which is slightly too tall), his weight (215, a little on the heavy side)" translates into " not big enough for 20+ carries"?

knoxchatter writes:

in response to iowavol:

Agree. It would be interesting to see his YPC between Simms and Bray at QB. Hopefully, Tyler is becoming a student of the game and realizing he needs to better at reading defenses. Regardless, best of luck to Tauren. A chance to be another one of Fulmer's recruits making it on Sundays.

good post iowavol and flatrock...must admit, many Vol fans, including myself, are still deeply concerned about Bray's leadership abilities. Even Dooley commented in his news conference after KY debacle that he told Bray there was 'no shortage in leadership' moving forward...indicating that Bray needs to work on putting football first. As of late, there is still little indication that he is doing so. Big problem for the program when this is STILL an issue plaguing your JUNIOR starting quarterback.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Depending on who drafts him, we have ANOTHER Arian Foster on our hands. Fantasy players beginning to salivate already!!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Oops, sorry l'il ZZ and Grantland Rice, Sam Jackson and other idiots. To salivate means to "lick your chops like a dog after a bone"

GetSimmsandTeagueout writes:

Who knows Foster and Lewis both stunk up their senior yrs.

Ironcity writes:

in response to iowavol:

Agree. It would be interesting to see his YPC between Simms and Bray at QB. Hopefully, Tyler is becoming a student of the game and realizing he needs to better at reading defenses. Regardless, best of luck to Tauren. A chance to be another one of Fulmer's recruits making it on Sundays.

Not sure you knew this but Bray didn't call his plays nor did Simms. That story got legs based on a blurb by Dooley in a feeble attempt to build up Simms up after the lousy effort against LSU. Unfortunately a lot of folks here took it out of context (not unusual). Take a look at what Poole did the year before with Bray starting (over 100 yards every game) Then ask yourself if he is so bad then how did that happen. I wish Poole well but he wasn't a leader when this team needed one this year and last and thats unfortunate. I wish him well in his future endeavors whatever they may end up being

orangeman1 writes:

in response to GetSimmsandTeagueout:

Who knows Foster and Lewis both stunk up their senior yrs.

Who knows how much all the change in coaches affected these guys and others that left the team. Poole had the fortitude to stick with it and hopefully it will pay off.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Maurice Jones-Drew 343 carries, Height: 5-7 Weight: 208
Ray Rice 291 carries, Height: 5-8 Weight: 212
Marshawn Lynch 285 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 215
Frank Gore 282 carries, Height: 5-9 Weight: 217
Arian Foster 278 carries, Height: 6-1 Weight: 229
Cedric Benson 273 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 227
LeSean McCoy 273 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 208
Chris Johnson 262 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 191
Steven Jackson 260 carries, Height: 6-2 Weight: 240
Shonn Greene 253 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 226
Willis McGhee 249 carries, Height: 6-0 Weight: 235

Reggie Bush 216 carries, Height: 6-0 Weight: 203
Felix Jones 127 carries, Height: 5-10 Weight: 217

Tauren Poole Height :5-10 Weight 215

“Reggie Bush, Felix Jones are comparable backs that can't tote the load of a every down back. “
“A featured NFL RB should be around 225-235 lbs”

Here are the top 11 rbs (by carries) listed on the NFL website.
I also included RB & FJ since you singled them out.
Note that Maurice Jones-Drew with 343 (the most & only one to avg. 20+cpg/16 game season) carries is 5’7” and 208 lbs.
Tauren Poole is 5’10” and 215 lbs.

Further notice that the top 5 are not 225-235 lbs..
Whether or not Tauren will be able to break away (or even break into the NFL) is not known at this point.
But if not, it won’t be because he’s not big enough.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to atributetoLombardiwasbanned:

Maurice Jones-Drew 343 carries, Height: 5-7 Weight: 208
Ray Rice 291 carries, Height: 5-8 Weight: 212
Marshawn Lynch 285 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 215
Frank Gore 282 carries, Height: 5-9 Weight: 217
Arian Foster 278 carries, Height: 6-1 Weight: 229
Cedric Benson 273 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 227
LeSean McCoy 273 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 208
Chris Johnson 262 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 191
Steven Jackson 260 carries, Height: 6-2 Weight: 240
Shonn Greene 253 carries, Height: 5-11 Weight: 226
Willis McGhee 249 carries, Height: 6-0 Weight: 235

Reggie Bush 216 carries, Height: 6-0 Weight: 203
Felix Jones 127 carries, Height: 5-10 Weight: 217

Tauren Poole Height :5-10 Weight 215

“Reggie Bush, Felix Jones are comparable backs that can't tote the load of a every down back. “
“A featured NFL RB should be around 225-235 lbs”

Here are the top 11 rbs (by carries) listed on the NFL website.
I also included RB & FJ since you singled them out.
Note that Maurice Jones-Drew with 343 (the most & only one to avg. 20+cpg/16 game season) carries is 5’7” and 208 lbs.
Tauren Poole is 5’10” and 215 lbs.

Further notice that the top 5 are not 225-235 lbs..
Whether or not Tauren will be able to break away (or even break into the NFL) is not known at this point.
But if not, it won’t be because he’s not big enough.

"Further notice that the top 5 are not 225-235 lbs.."

Correction, that SHOULD read 4 of the top 5...

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to knoxchatter:

good post iowavol and flatrock...must admit, many Vol fans, including myself, are still deeply concerned about Bray's leadership abilities. Even Dooley commented in his news conference after KY debacle that he told Bray there was 'no shortage in leadership' moving forward...indicating that Bray needs to work on putting football first. As of late, there is still little indication that he is doing so. Big problem for the program when this is STILL an issue plaguing your JUNIOR starting quarterback.

Obviously, this is on Chaney and Dooley (and Bray). I think they were hoping he would grow and play his way into more maturity and leadership...but it's going to require some tweaking by coaches and some "knuckling down" by Bray. Unfortunately, this attitude is typical of West Coast athletes...and where the PAC should really be more of a challenge to SEC, their culture is so different...and it absolutely affects the outlook of the high school/college kids re: achievement and teamwork vs. underachievement and selfishness. It's like, "Dude or DOOD, I'm cool...you can't make me cooler," or something like the surfer "anti-establishment" mindset.

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

One would think that by now, Poole would've done everything possible to increase his speed while @ U.T. Any techniques or training that could help him take another .1 off his 40 time? OR...develop into more of a power runner?

Ironcity writes:

in response to knoxchatter:

good post iowavol and flatrock...must admit, many Vol fans, including myself, are still deeply concerned about Bray's leadership abilities. Even Dooley commented in his news conference after KY debacle that he told Bray there was 'no shortage in leadership' moving forward...indicating that Bray needs to work on putting football first. As of late, there is still little indication that he is doing so. Big problem for the program when this is STILL an issue plaguing your JUNIOR starting quarterback.

You mentioned their is little evidence that Bray is putting Football first. I would like a more details. It sounds to me as if you he is putting other things in his life first.

Blanket statements based on nothing but your gut or opinion are pretty weak. I do know that Bray has done a lot of charitable work this off season and its my understanding that he is in the weight room all the time. Not sure what more you want.

We as fans want to blame something or someone every time UT loses and thats unfortunate. In Brays case he was hurt and sick at UK. If he had not played you would have been the first to question his heart. I really get disgusted when I see us fans (including myself sometimes) sitting on our fat butts making sweeping statements based on nothing or poor interpretations of what our coach says to the media.

I thought the beating he took against UF showed us all the type of leader he can be. He has never thrown any his teammates nor his coaches under the bus which is more then I can say about last years back up.

Does Bray have some social issues? He might but most 20 years old's do. I expect a big year from him and the offense. I am sure we will all sing his praises until a better team comes along and we lose. Then we will blame him and or another star player and state things like they don't care, they have no heart or they don't bleed orange blah blah blah.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What's ridiculous is your insisting that a running nack needs to be 225-235 lbs to be a featured back when clearly there are other, far more important factors.

VolVox writes:

Thanks, Tauren, for giving it your all during four of the most tumultuous years ever experienced by Tennessee football. When UT returns to the top of the football heap, you can rightfully say, "I helped do that." Good luck with your NFL prep, and may you be injury-free.

oldvoltimer62 writes:

T.Poole thanks for all the effort you gave, for the Vols and the fans.You go on now and show them nfl scouts you can pull the load.I know you can make at the next level it's all about the heart.GBO!!

BluezVol writes:

Wouldn't it be nice if players in their junior and senior years took their preseason preparations as as seriously as they do their combine preparations? Wouldn't it be nice if every professional player treated seasons/upcoming games as if they had to "make the sale" as many of us do in industry EVERY DAY (please don't quote me the one-off exception to this - I'm talking about the majority of players). Naaaah....that would be took much work and they're only being paid millions to play the game.

VolsFanInNC writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Oops, sorry l'il ZZ and Grantland Rice, Sam Jackson and other idiots. To salivate means to "lick your chops like a dog after a bone"

They know that only as drool.

SpiralBound writes:

Not strong enough, not quick enough, no vision, not loud enough...BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Critics had similar things to say about EVERY running back entering the draft. That's why they are just that, CRITICS.

Tauren knows that with hard work, determination, and alotta' Jesus - all things are possible.

Psalms 84:10-14

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to SpiralBound:

Not strong enough, not quick enough, no vision, not loud enough...BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Critics had similar things to say about EVERY running back entering the draft. That's why they are just that, CRITICS.

Tauren knows that with hard work, determination, and alotta' Jesus - all things are possible.

Psalms 84:10-14

That's why they are just that, CRITICS.

Those who can, do.
Those who cannot do, coach (teach).
Those who can neither DO nor COACH, critisize.

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