With Rajion Neal 'doubtful,' UT must adjust rejuvenated run game

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee tailback Rajion Neal scores a touchdown against Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., last Saturday night. Neal suffered an ankle injury during the game and is doubtful for Saturday's game against Alabama.

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee tailback Rajion Neal scores a touchdown against Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., last Saturday night. Neal suffered an ankle injury during the game and is doubtful for Saturday's game against Alabama.

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Tennessee's top rusher could be sidelined with an ankle injury when the Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) play host to No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.).

Rajion Neal, who has helped lead the Vols' running attack to unexpected heights in 2012, is unlikely to play this week, coach Derek Dooley said Monday.

Neal was one of two Tennessee running backs to suffer injuries in a 41-31 loss to Mississippi State. Backup Marlin Lane (quadriceps) is probable for the Alabama game, Dooley said.

Propelled by Neal and a rejuvenated offensive line, the running attack has been a bright spot in 2012.

But when Tennessee's top two rushers went down with injuries on Saturday, the stats didn't change much.

The Vols gained 213 yards on the ground, their most in an SEC game since 2009 against Kentucky. UT is averaging 183 yards per game, an impressive accomplishment for a team that sometimes struggled to escape negative territory last year.

But repeating the feat against one of the nation's best defenses will be tough.

"I feel like we can run

against anybody," said sophomore Devrin Young, who got the bulk of the carries after Neal and Lane exited on Saturday. "Alabama has a great defense obviously, but if we execute our game plan it's going to show."

The most productive night of Young's career (13 carries for a team-high 58 yards) was marred by a fourth-quarter fumble that stopped Tennessee's momentum and led to Mississippi State's first score of the second half.

"It was really disappointing for me," Young said. "I personally felt like I might have lost the game for us with that key fumble. It hurt me real bad. I was real sad about that loss. We're given 24 hours to be sad about it, and then it's time to move on."

If Neal is out and Lane is limited, Young will once again be the top back. That's why it's especially important for him to shake any lingering disappointment from Saturday night.

"Good things happen and bad things happen. It all just depends on how you respond to it," he said. "I feel like I'm going to respond well to it."

In addition to Young, freshman Quenshaun Watson, and receivers Alton "Pig" Howard and Cordarrelle Patterson also got carries against the Bulldogs.

Of Tennessee's 1,100 yards rushing this season, Neal has accounted for exactly 500. Next up? Patterson, with 214.

"I'm just going to hope there are more opportunities for me to showcase myself," Patterson said.

Without one or possibly two running backs, there might be.

"(Offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney has a big playbook," Patterson said. "I wasn't surprised (when I went in to run). I had been begging them all week to give me a little toss or something to show what I can do."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 19

6972 writes:

If there was ever a game when Lane and Young need to buckle their chin straps and pull up the jockey staps....this one is it.

pcshowtime writes:

I am watching monday night football. I just watched jon gruden call what the play would be before the offense snapped the ball for a touchdown. Offer this man 40 mil guaranteed over 8 yrs. much the same deal as bama gave saban. You will also have to give him complete control of the football program like saban. I know "he want come". Saban told bama no a lot of times to. Jon gruden has forgot more about football than our lawyer coach knows.
Bottom line if you want pay or can't pay the cash then just reside your self to being vandy or KY. When you pay bargain basement prices you get bargain basement BS.

orangecountyvols writes:

What's with this "he want come," and "if you want pay?"

Based on that kind of struggle with the English language your comments are bargain basement.

pcshowtime writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

What's with this "he want come," and "if you want pay?"

Based on that kind of struggle with the English language your comments are bargain basement.

I'm not an English major kind of like dooley is not a football coach.

miatatom writes:

Shake it off, Devrin. This is a new week.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!

Supersayin1 writes:

I'm telling you, create plays where Young is given the oppertunity to hit the edge, instead of him pounding it up the middle all the time, and this kid will Burn defenses!! He's so fast, he needs to trust his speed, and be given those chances! Same with Pig, and Patterson!

RIG-VOL-FAN writes:

I've got faith in you Devrin. I've got faith in the whole team. I feel like they have lost faith in themselves. Beating Bama would raise alot of spirits. Weeks are so hard these last few years watching the Vols struggle. GBO

Orangepuddinskin writes:

I would like to see CP get the ball more often. I worry that Devrin and Watson are just too small against BAMA. I am not sure if anyone else noticed last Saturday, but it looked like Pig had a world class burst off the line when he was playing the wildcat. The need to get the ball into that kids hands also.

123forVOLS writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

I'm not an English major kind of like dooley is not a football coach.

And you don't have the ansirs eethur! The hole has been dug. The money is not unlimited. Paying former coaches bundles, having a big payout with the current one makes it tuff(tough). Until a high level coach is secured, we have the lawyer as our coach. Accept it, whine about it, whatever, it is reality.

lomas98 writes:

Lack of a rb coach the last 2 years has really affected the depth of this position. Young and lane are average 2nd string guys in this conference and not every down backs. Too bad we ran off the kid who was committed and stayed committed, but we were chasing bourque instead and he didn't even make it through summer practice. That kid, who i beleive was from georgia, then went to Nebraska. He at least had some size and seemed to want to be here.

All_Vol_1989 writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Obviously you're not a Tennessee fan. What other school is lucky enough to have you as a fan?

All_Vol_1989 writes:

in response to lomas98:

Lack of a rb coach the last 2 years has really affected the depth of this position. Young and lane are average 2nd string guys in this conference and not every down backs. Too bad we ran off the kid who was committed and stayed committed, but we were chasing bourque instead and he didn't even make it through summer practice. That kid, who i beleive was from georgia, then went to Nebraska. He at least had some size and seemed to want to be here.

What about Tom Smith? He looked pretty good in a few spring games and really don't hear much about him. Al least he has some size. Throwing 180 pound TB at Alabama really puts us at a disadvantage

brokendownoldvol writes:

Put Patterson at tailback and watch the expression on Sabans face change.

gatorhator4eva writes:

ATTENTION UT COACHING STAFF

GAMEPLAN: GET THE BALL IN CORDELLE PATTERSON"S HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JordanGrindstaff writes:

in response to 6972:

If there was ever a game when Lane and Young need to buckle their chin straps and pull up the jockey staps....this one is it.

False, you better give quenshawn watson 8 to 10 carries and patterson should line up in wildcat close to 1o times in that game.instead of throwing the ball in the mid 20's we should be throwing a minimum of 30 to 35 times.thats what bray needs to get rythym going. if you you dont believe me watch games where he got that many throws and look at the numbers!

MurfVol77 writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

that was my first impression too...

Bark_at_the_Moon writes:

Put Patterson in the backfield and hand it off on every play. When Bama brings up their LBers and Safety to stop this freak, throw it to Hunter or Rogers across the top.

UTVolWarrior98 writes:

Ya hear that Dooley and Chainey?!! The kid is screaming in your ears on what you need to do to try and have a chance of winning! Sorry Corarrelle, it will go one ear and out the other..our coaches are too stupid to comprehend.

Rockytopfan96 writes:

in response to gatorhator4eva:

ATTENTION UT COACHING STAFF

GAMEPLAN: GET THE BALL IN CORDELLE PATTERSON"S HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thats the best gameplan of the SEASON!!!!

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