Rajion Neal now sharing job as Tennessee's starting running back

Neal, Lane and Young listed as co-starters

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) dives for the goal line during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game last Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) dives for the goal line during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game last Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Derek Dooley on Vols' first game, the 35-21 win over NC State

How many games will the Vols win in September?

See the results »

View previous polls »

The battle to be Tennessee's No. 1 running back has been reopened after Marlin Lane bounced back from a subpar August to be the Vols' leading rusher Friday night against North Carolina State.

The new depth chart released Monday lists Lane as a co-starter with Devrin Young and Rajion Neal, who won the job out of camp but was criticized by coach Derek Dooley for not being aggressive enough inside.

"I'm proud of Marlin," Dooley said. "He struggled a little bit in camp and the other guys played really well. It would have been easy for Marlin to get the mulligrubbs and say, 'I'm getting screwed.' But he kept a real good attitude. That's how it is in sports. You just keep sawing wood, and when you get your opportunity, you take advantage of it."

Lane rushed for 75 yards on nine carries Friday, while Neal had 53 yards on 22 carries. Young had only two rushing attempts.

Neal said he was too greedy in his first game as the top back, looking to bounce outside in an attempt to make a big play.

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
Tennessee running back Marlin Lane (15) breaks free during the second half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game last Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Michael Patrick/News Sentinel Tennessee running back Marlin Lane (15) breaks free during the second half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game last Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

"I've just got to take what they give me," Neal said. "There wasn't much at times, but there were times when we needed to get a few yards instead of bouncing outside. I think that just comes with it being the first game and being excited and wanting to do as much as I can."

All three backs are likely to get plenty of looks in Saturday's game against Georgia State (4 p.m., Pay-Per-View). Dooley said he wants to get Young more involved. Beyond that, opportunities will be determined by who delivers on Saturdays.

"The most important thing is who's producing on game day," Dooley said. "The hard thing is you say you need a bunch of touches to produce. Well, get in there and take advantage of your opportunity and you'll keep getting the ball. That part hasn't changed."

Neal said the Wolfpack did an effective job of shutting down run lanes. When he ran outside last Friday, he wasn't shying away from contact, he said, but simply trying to make a play.

Coaches have since impressed upon him to hit the hole hard and fast — not hesitating to make decisions — and to take what the defense offers, even if it's only two or three yards.

North Carolina State safety Brandan Bishop (30) stops Tennessee running back Devrin Young (19) during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

North Carolina State safety Brandan Bishop (30) stops Tennessee running back Devrin Young (19) during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

"I've got to make that one decision and go with it," Neal said.

Lane, a sophomore from Daytona Beach, Fla, entered this year as the Vols' top returning rusher after carrying 75 times for 280 yards in 2011.

But he injured his hand and was limited in summer workouts. His performance in camp wasn't bad; coaches just thought he was outpaced by Neal and Young.

"The other guys were probably a little more energized," Dooley said. "They were hungrier. I don't think it was as much Marlin as the other two having a real focus. Marlin was the only returning rusher, so I think it's natural to come in and say, 'Well, I'm going to be the guy.' "

It may turn out that way after all if Lane can follow up his performance in the opener with another strong game against Georgia State.

Lane said he didn't enter the N.C. State game with any sort of chip on his shoulder, but he did want to prove he could do the job.

"I just went out there and played physical every time," Lane said. "I tried to set the tone with the running game. ... After nine months of hitting each other, I just wanted to go out there and show the hard work that we did all spring and all year long."

Lane understands that he can't let up after one game.

"It gave me confidence, but each week you're going to have to step up and keep on pushing the run game," Lane said.

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 44

PUL4VOLS writes:

And we should be surprised at this because... Lane proved he will put his head down and go forward. Neal did not look bad but had too much side to side, back tracking and losing yards or only getting back to the line of scrimmage. Both need quality snaps but Lane is the better right now.

BluezVol writes:

Neal has the tools. If he wants some pointers beyond his very talented RB coach, just watch the true freshman RB from Alabama and how he ran against Michigan. That is how you do it Mr. Neal.

tuvol4u (Inactive) writes:

I hate to say it, but after watching Bama destroy Michigan the other night, Saban has found a way to remaster what he has already accomplished in this league by putting a nearly new squad together to wallup a team on opening week. I was, well, very impressed at how bama didnt skip a beat it seems.

Its like my excitement for our win was suddenly brought back down to reality after just one night: its bama's SEC and we are living in it. We just arent there yet on their level and the biggest reason is in our running game. We have RBs who would rather run east/west than north/south. I mean seriously, what was Neal thinking????

I loved watching the vols take out NCState the other night in the fashion they did. They put a wallup on NC State, but not the stranglehold that bama put on michigan. If we want to compete this year with that bama squad, we HAVE to run the gotdam ball and not dance around, period.

3rd saturday is still a ways off and our team will only get better, i just wonder if its by leaps and bounds.

If we cant run the ball effectively against UF, UGA and MISS ST. then we wont win against Bama.

BillsBrother writes:

Marlin Lane deserved the promotion. He ran hard Friday night and his yards were north and south. He helped moved the chains when the team needed to eat clock.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to BillsBrother:

Marlin Lane deserved the promotion. He ran hard Friday night and his yards were north and south. He helped moved the chains when the team needed to eat clock.

8.33 yards per carry. 6th-best average in the league.

TommyJack writes:

Plenty of ball to go around. It's a long season.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

The play is designed for the runner to go to a certain spot. Just hit that spot hard. Stick to the plan. Sometimes the hole won't be there. Sometimes the hole won't be very big, or will close up fast and only give way for a couple of yards gain. Sometimes, the hole will be right where it's supposed to be, and you'll break through into the secondary and gain big yards. Trust your line to do what they're supposed to do.

Lane seemed to be the only one living it Friday.

CoverOrange writes:

Pretty much the same OL as last year, pretty much the same result. With a new OL coach I had hoped for a change but it doesn't appear so. Lane won't make much difference.

dvhill100 writes:

Lane certainly looked like he knew what he was doing. Too much east-west from Neil. All correctable. Line is better, but not there yet. First game against a good opponent so no panic.

OrangePsyched writes:

What did Lane have 9 rushes for 75 yds. My math is a little rusty but that feels like 8.3 yds per carry to me. He ran hard inside. Neal gave up to soon and tried to break everything outside. We will be fine with our rushing attack. It is not our strength, passing is but it will be middle of the pack SEC and that is all we need.

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Pretty much the same OL as last year, pretty much the same result. With a new OL coach I had hoped for a change but it doesn't appear so. Lane won't make much difference.

cry much do you ?

AppreciativeAlum writes:

The line will only improve if they can take pride in their work. Neal should not see the ball if he keeps peeing all over them.

DannyVol writes:

From what I saw, it wasn't a contest. Lane punished tacklers and Neal and Young weren't aggressive. There's a time and place for bouncing outside, but it won't be there if you don't pound it up inside some first. Reward Lane for taking practice to the game and start him.

Timbo_Slice writes:

I posted several weeks ago that I thought Lane would be much improved this year after a full season of coming off a knee injury. I was shocked to see him listed as the number 3 guy. D Young doesn't have the size to be an every down back imo. And Neal got moved to receiver last year because he dropped on the depth chart. Didn't much care for the way he kind of threw the o line under the bus with his comments about the hole not being there. Hope Coach Jay Grahm can get these guys ready for gauntlet that is the SEC!

Orangepuddinskin writes:

in response to dvhill100:

Lane certainly looked like he knew what he was doing. Too much east-west from Neil. All correctable. Line is better, but not there yet. First game against a good opponent so no panic.

This is exactly correct. Lane ran with a purpose, up the gut Friday night. I think that Lane may be seeing the ball quite a bit more in the near future. Devrin is a pretty good returner, but I just dont see him breaking the depth charts over Lane or Neal. I am pretty sure that Marlin took over the No.2 spot last Friday, if not the No.1 spot. I think that Lane will come up big in 2 weeks against an inferior Florida team.

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Pretty much the same OL as last year, pretty much the same result. With a new OL coach I had hoped for a change but it doesn't appear so. Lane won't make much difference.

Tool.

tnsportsman writes:

IMO Lane will continue to get better each game. This will be his breakout year after knee surgery 2 years ago, he knows the knee is 110% now and not thinking about it. This guy was one of the top 3 RB recruits, he will now prove it!

GO VOLS ALWAYS!

SouthPaVol writes:

Coach has to make a decision. Like a young pretty girl with 20 guys trying to steal her eye--gotta make a decision--otherwise, it starts to look bad.

If your criteria is '"The most important thing is who's producing on game day," Dooley said,' then you have enough information, 'cause we had a game day. It's only one game, but after reviewing game day film, then pull the trigger. Name a starter. That decision may change next week, but so be it.

jakethevolguy writes:

Had Marvin Lane Jr. set as my wallpaper this month. I just had a feeling that he would be the man this year and if Friday night is any indication..........well!!! GBO!! VFL

jakethevolguy writes:

Marlin....sorry typo.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to BluezVol:

Neal has the tools. If he wants some pointers beyond his very talented RB coach, just watch the true freshman RB from Alabama and how he ran against Michigan. That is how you do it Mr. Neal.

Lets not forget the OL is AT LEAST 50% responsible for Bama's running success...but your point is well taken...when Barrett Jones blows a hole its the running backs job to hit it....and I think our OL is getting better...still a little puzzled at the pass protection abilities of or OL but struggles in run blocking though...

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to tennrich1:

Lets not forget the OL is AT LEAST 50% responsible for Bama's running success...but your point is well taken...when Barrett Jones blows a hole its the running backs job to hit it....and I think our OL is getting better...still a little puzzled at the pass protection abilities of or OL but struggles in run blocking though...

I agree..You could drive a truck thru the holes this guy ran in.Bama also uses a thing called a Fullback; something Chaney isn't real familiar with..

PUL4VOLS writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Pretty much the same OL as last year, pretty much the same result. With a new OL coach I had hoped for a change but it doesn't appear so. Lane won't make much difference.

I could not disagree with you more. 191 yards, against not a pushover defense, as opposed to averaging in the 90 yard range last year against teams like Montana, Buffalo, MT; it is progress. We still have a long way to go but there were holes just backs were impatient. My guess is it will get even better but what do I know? I am certainly no coach. But even a non-expert like myself saw improvement on the OL Friday night.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Much as I hate to say it; you have to accept the fact that none of these guys are exactly what you would call premier running backs; You don't have to be all world if you consistently have fat lanes to run in but they DON'T..It also makes me wonder why we are still trying to coax them to run in the designed gap;thats something you learn in high school..It's pretty simple; you want a great running game than recruit a great back..And where are all these great backs going? Bama--GA--USC--ARK;pretty much everywhere but here!! I understand Bama signing a top#3 RB 3 years running; who wouldn't want to run behind that line? But when Vandy and Ole Miss are ahead of you in RB recruiting for 2013 thats BS!!Somebody please tell me we have a shot at signing a RB thats not #55 at that position

bigjvol22 writes:

in response to kiffinsux:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I was sitting 4 rows up in the corner where CP84 caught his 1st TD pass of the year and I agree I thought the OL was a hundred times better than last season ...... Keep running boys.

GBO.......VFL!!!!!!!!!!

hueypilot writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

I agree..You could drive a truck thru the holes this guy ran in.Bama also uses a thing called a Fullback; something Chaney isn't real familiar with..

Check tape. On CP's run for sure and I think on Lane's run Bartholomew met a man straight up and pasted him. If you will go back to Chester Ford a few years back he was responsible for some really big gainers by Vol RB's. I love the FB leading the play. We run better when we line up with one back there.

RememberWhen writes:

A few conclusions can be drawn already....

1. Lane is the better back. Period. End of story. Put him in and let him bang.

2. The East is up for grabs. They'll beat each other up and whoever has the best record against the West will win it. Edge to GA since the don't play the big boys.

3. #2 above doesn't matter. Nobody in the East is beating LSU or Bama in Atlanta.

4. DoLittle has yet to figure out how to score in 2nd half. This will bite this scrappy team more than once this year. Shame he's too busy taking notes to actually do what he's overpaid to do.

5. There is no reason for Bray, Hunter, Patterson and several others to play this week. Use this scrimmage to get experience for Worley and others as well as avoid injuries against the GA ST high schoolers. It could be invaluable if injuries occur again.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

I could not disagree with you more. 191 yards, against not a pushover defense, as opposed to averaging in the 90 yard range last year against teams like Montana, Buffalo, MT; it is progress. We still have a long way to go but there were holes just backs were impatient. My guess is it will get even better but what do I know? I am certainly no coach. But even a non-expert like myself saw improvement on the OL Friday night.

Two runs had more than half of that total and the longest was by a WR. Numerous runs for no gain, up the middle and sweeps. You're right, that it was embarrassing to struggle against those Div II like foes last year, but I didn't see a consistent push much less domination by an experienced OL. And if Lane is the man, you would have expected him to show that in four weeks of practice. I'm not an expert either, but I don't expect lots of yardage against SEC defenses.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BigOrangeFever76:

Tool.

Garden implement.

RememberWhen writes:

One other thing...TN didn't get 191 yds of pure rushing....over 100 of that came on 2 plays which aren't likely to happen much. This OL and these backs have PLENTY of experience at this point - that's no longer a viable excuse - yet they still only generate about 90 yards against a middle of the road ACC defense. No improvement from last year through 1 game. Bray's passing is the only offense this team has and that won't cut it against the top half of SEC defenses. It's time this line starts blowing some people away.

hikerdude writes:

Our running game is still not very good. NC State has no linebackers and we still had a difficult time. Our guys need to watch the Alabama v Mich game and the Clemson v Auburn game. Bama and Clemson know how to run the ball.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to kiffinsux:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Pass protection was great last year and run game was poor = pretty much the same result. I watched the game on replay after knowing the result and without the emotion you were caught up in. Please try to pay attention and grow up.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to chrisw2967:

cry much do you ?

Not for you or Argentina.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to hueypilot:

Check tape. On CP's run for sure and I think on Lane's run Bartholomew met a man straight up and pasted him. If you will go back to Chester Ford a few years back he was responsible for some really big gainers by Vol RB's. I love the FB leading the play. We run better when we line up with one back there.

You are correct our FB was the one that sprung Lane for the big gain but we only used a FB on about 3 plays and out of 30 runs it should be at least 10 with a FB..Chaney also used a new wrinkle designed to have 2 TE's on an outside run but it didn't work..

Rumblefish writes:

Lane > Neal

And it showed in the spring game too.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

Lane > Neal

And it showed in the spring game too.

Maybe you have a point with the spring game included. Personally I was excited about the almost 200 yards and didn't notice that much who got them. I guess really Patterson got the most? I didn't look at the stats. Going by that though we need to run more broken plays.hehe

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Much as I hate to say it; you have to accept the fact that none of these guys are exactly what you would call premier running backs; You don't have to be all world if you consistently have fat lanes to run in but they DON'T..It also makes me wonder why we are still trying to coax them to run in the designed gap;thats something you learn in high school..It's pretty simple; you want a great running game than recruit a great back..And where are all these great backs going? Bama--GA--USC--ARK;pretty much everywhere but here!! I understand Bama signing a top#3 RB 3 years running; who wouldn't want to run behind that line? But when Vandy and Ole Miss are ahead of you in RB recruiting for 2013 thats BS!!Somebody please tell me we have a shot at signing a RB thats not #55 at that position

We are in the top 3 for Derrick Henry, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 33 consecutive HS games--with over 300 yds last week. Henry will be in Knoxville to see the TN-Fl game and then make his decision on 28 Sept.

Go Vols!

http://atlanta.sbnation.com/2012/9/2/...

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

We are in the top 3 for Derrick Henry, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 33 consecutive HS games--with over 300 yds last week. Henry will be in Knoxville to see the TN-Fl game and then make his decision on 28 Sept.

Go Vols!

http://atlanta.sbnation.com/2012/9/2/...

Dang! 6-3, 240; over 8000 yards; over 100 TDs! That's what I'm talking about! Do NOT let this guy get away! Thanks for the info.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

We are in the top 3 for Derrick Henry, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 33 consecutive HS games--with over 300 yds last week. Henry will be in Knoxville to see the TN-Fl game and then make his decision on 28 Sept.

Go Vols!

http://atlanta.sbnation.com/2012/9/2/...

I had no idea we had a chance here. Golly this makes beating Florida a good idea. UNLESS he wants to play immediately. hmmmm I don't see a problem there.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I had no idea we had a chance here. Golly this makes beating Florida a good idea. UNLESS he wants to play immediately. hmmmm I don't see a problem there.

Well, if this guy is "all that", and IF the Vols can actually get him, he should get every opportunity to play early. It's not like he would have to dislodge any Heisman candidates to get that chance. That seems to be what you were getting at anyway. RB is one position where freshmen often shine, even on really good teams.

murrayvol writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

I could not disagree with you more. 191 yards, against not a pushover defense, as opposed to averaging in the 90 yard range last year against teams like Montana, Buffalo, MT; it is progress. We still have a long way to go but there were holes just backs were impatient. My guess is it will get even better but what do I know? I am certainly no coach. But even a non-expert like myself saw improvement on the OL Friday night.

We're all experts here.

murrayvol writes:

in response to RememberWhen:

A few conclusions can be drawn already....

1. Lane is the better back. Period. End of story. Put him in and let him bang.

2. The East is up for grabs. They'll beat each other up and whoever has the best record against the West will win it. Edge to GA since the don't play the big boys.

3. #2 above doesn't matter. Nobody in the East is beating LSU or Bama in Atlanta.

4. DoLittle has yet to figure out how to score in 2nd half. This will bite this scrappy team more than once this year. Shame he's too busy taking notes to actually do what he's overpaid to do.

5. There is no reason for Bray, Hunter, Patterson and several others to play this week. Use this scrimmage to get experience for Worley and others as well as avoid injuries against the GA ST high schoolers. It could be invaluable if injuries occur again.

You were doing fine til you got to #5. There is every reason for all three to play at least a full half this week.

So what if we treat it like a scrimmage. They need the work.

murrayvol writes:

Neal needs to get his pads down, hit whatever hole is available, and make it bigger. He can do it.....but he has to want to.

East/west is a waste of time and energy in the SEC.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Neal needs to get his pads down, hit whatever hole is available, and make it bigger. He can do it.....but he has to want to.

East/west is a waste of time and energy in the SEC.

I KNOW I want to believe you. We have "wast"ed the energy the last little bit. East/West
I saw some hope though in that we did find the yards. Even Neal some...course I didn't see it on ESPDarNu...I had to guess where his "pads" were!!!!!(sorry)

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features