Running back Alden Hill caps strong spring with 100-yard game

Tennessee wide receiver Pig Howard runs the ball as defensive lineman Jacques Smith (55) defends during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, April 20, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee wide receiver Pig Howard runs the ball as defensive lineman Jacques Smith (55) defends during the Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, April 20, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

At the start of spring practice, redshirt freshman running back Alden Hill was so far down the depth chart that the idea of him playing a meaningful role in Tennessee’s offense was hard to imagine.

Six weeks later, Hill capped an incredible spring with a nearly perfect Saturday afternoon in the Orange and White Game, rushing for 101 yards on 18 carries and catching three passes for 14 yards.

“Today’s performance summarizes his spring,” said Tennessee coach Butch Jones.

Hill’s progress has been fueled by a combination of hard work and an unexpected opportunity. When Marlin Lane was suspended for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, Hill became the only real option after Rajion Neal.

Hill said he’s tried to keep the same mentality whether he’s working with the scout team or the starters.

“I just play like it’s the first team either way,” he said.

He rattled off an acronym for a running back’s responsibilities on each snap — alignment, pre-snap reads, eyes and steps — “APES.”

“I break everything down by little things,” he said.

Neal, who is likely to enter the season as the No. 1 back if Lane doesn’t return, rushed 11 times for 34 yards and added a 39-yard reception.

Lane was listed on the roster but did not attend Saturday’s game.

***

A busted thumb doesn’t sound like a dire injury for an offensive lineman, but for centers who must grip the ball on every snap, it’s a different story.

Mack Crowder, a second-team offensive lineman from Bristol, was recognized Saturday as the team’s most improved offensive player. But Jones said that was only part of the reason he was honored with the Harvey Robinson Award.

“He didn’t miss one rep in practice,” Jones said. “Mack has been hurt. He hurt his thumb, and he’s a center. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t miss one rep.”

A third-year sophomore, Crowder is unlikely to break into the starting ranks this season unless there are injuries, but his performance bodes well for 2014, when the Vols will have to replace four or five starters on the line.

Linebacker Dontavis Sapp won the Andy Spiva Award for the most improved defensive player. Hill, tight end Alex Ellis and defensive back Max Arnold won the John Stuck Iron Vol Award.

***

Jones handed play-calling duties over to the fans to start each quarter. A few young Vol fans earned memories for a lifetime, while Justin Martin of A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty” garnered the fourth-quarter call.

One young Vol fan reached into the bag of tricks to call a double-reverse to start the second quarter. UT defensive lineman Jacques Smith wasn’t in the business of making memories. Stalking out the reverse, the senior corralled Pig Howard and flung the 5-foot-8, 185-pound wideout to the ground for a loss.

***

Among the large number of former Vols in attendance, Arian Foster was pegged for an important duty. The Houston Texans running back spent a stretch of the first half spinning tracks from a Deejay booth near the north end zone.

Whatever Foster played worked. Soon after he took over Neyland’s musical selection, wideout Cody Blanc gave fans something to dance to with a 58-yard catch and run into the end zone. It stood as UT’s only touchdown of the day.

***

An announced crowd of 61,076 stands as UT’s second-most for a spring game in 53 outings. Whether the number is generous or not is in the eye of the beholder.

About a half-hour before kickoff, Neyland’s upper deck was as bare as Auburn’s oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, which enjoyed their last rolling on Saturday. (Auburn drew more than 83,000 fans for its spring game).

As kickoff approached, Neyland’s lower level gradually turned orange. Those arriving early for autographs filled the bleachers between the 10-yard lines. Those who enjoyed pregame cocktails and barbecue mainly occupied the end zone seats.

By kickoff, the lower bowl was nearly filled, while a few clumps of fans dotted some upper-deck rows.

Evan Woodbery and Brendan Quinn cover Tennessee athletics.

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Comments » 23

MarbleVol48 writes:

As I said along time ago " Give Alden Hill an Opportunity and he will be our #1 running back"! He doesn't go down by arm tackles like our other backs (including Neal & Lane). This young man can "tote the mail".

keepitreal4vols writes:

Why do you say 61,076 is considered generous? You say half hour before kickoff, upper deck was bare. Then you say at kickoff the lower bowl was full with clumps of fans in upper deck. Can you be any more wishy washy with your reporting???
And if your going to dispute the official crowd attendance, back it up with more than your eyeball guesstimation.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Why do you say 61,076 is considered generous? You say half hour before kickoff, upper deck was bare. Then you say at kickoff the lower bowl was full with clumps of fans in upper deck. Can you be any more wishy washy with your reporting???
And if your going to dispute the official crowd attendance, back it up with more than your eyeball guesstimation.

Judging by the overhead camera shot it certainly appeared to be 60,000+..Hill continues to impress with his physical running style, and that's a welcome sight after watching our backs fold like lawn furniture last season..GBO!!

Voltman writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Why do you say 61,076 is considered generous? You say half hour before kickoff, upper deck was bare. Then you say at kickoff the lower bowl was full with clumps of fans in upper deck. Can you be any more wishy washy with your reporting???
And if your going to dispute the official crowd attendance, back it up with more than your eyeball guesstimation.

+1 these people dont particularly like reporting positive stuff or like admitting to facts which prove them wrong for that matter.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

60K plus in the stands...right on Vol fans!

I like the buff all orange uniforms...reminds me of the Reggie White days.

gatorhator4eva writes:

back to the subject, aiden did an impressive job. im lookin to see him on the field often

GreerVol22 writes:

good news...emerging rb's are always a good thing.

bad news...yet again we think we can run a trick play with Pig and gain positive yardage...coach is probably melting that game film a we speak.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to MarbleVol48:

As I said along time ago " Give Alden Hill an Opportunity and he will be our #1 running back"! He doesn't go down by arm tackles like our other backs (including Neal & Lane). This young man can "tote the mail".

Considering the OLine is a strength;Nothing they did caught my eye and most outside running plays were a bust..Did like the way Hill picked his hole quickly and Neal appeared to be a step faster and has a very fluid stride

EDDIE_2 writes:

Still,if defense improved,and we got a stud running,can't be too bad.GO VOLS!

drone#208075 writes:

We scored 1 TD - Auburn scored a bunch.

BolivrBob writes:

It appears we have a new "one" at running back. I predict Dobbs will be our Qback before our season is over. I also predict our defense will be much improved and win us some games they lost us last season.

nocleats writes:

Alden just needs to train like crazy, quicker faster stronger and learn the offense inside out. Offensive line just needs to get mean, nasty, tough, dirty, angry, violent, and stronger!

baldingalum writes:

Hill is big - over 220, smart (3.6 GPA) and runs hard. We desperately need a good running back behind that offensive line, which I have to believe will play better than yesterday. Grind it out. Keep the defense off the field and help our QBs develop. Hill is the story this spring. How big a story we won't know until Oregon.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Hill is big - over 220, smart (3.6 GPA) and runs hard. We desperately need a good running back behind that offensive line, which I have to believe will play better than yesterday. Grind it out. Keep the defense off the field and help our QBs develop. Hill is the story this spring. How big a story we won't know until Oregon.

If he's also the story of the Fall, we'll be doing well.

nocleats writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Hill is big - over 220, smart (3.6 GPA) and runs hard. We desperately need a good running back behind that offensive line, which I have to believe will play better than yesterday. Grind it out. Keep the defense off the field and help our QBs develop. Hill is the story this spring. How big a story we won't know until Oregon.

You wont see much grind it out with this offense, its not what it does. Very fast snaps, no huddle with very little check offs. This offense gets off the field in a hurry, either by scoring or punting, but slow ball control keeping the defense off the field it is not. Gonna take 3 or 4 recruiting classes to really work like its supposed to.

baldingalum writes:

in response to nocleats:

You wont see much grind it out with this offense, its not what it does. Very fast snaps, no huddle with very little check offs. This offense gets off the field in a hurry, either by scoring or punting, but slow ball control keeping the defense off the field it is not. Gonna take 3 or 4 recruiting classes to really work like its supposed to.

Disagree. The talent is upfront. The staff knows it. They also know that the passing game is...well, a challenge.

nocleats writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Disagree. The talent is upfront. The staff knows it. They also know that the passing game is...well, a challenge.

Then why did they spend the entire spring installing a very very fast tempo, no huddle offense if their plan is to grind it out and keep opposing offenses off the field

west_tn_volfan writes:

in response to nocleats:

Then why did they spend the entire spring installing a very very fast tempo, no huddle offense if their plan is to grind it out and keep opposing offenses off the field

I think you may both end up right. They installed the offense they want to run but if they find they don't have the personnel to make it work they'll adjust to take advantage of their strengths. At least I hope they will.

gatorhator4eva writes:

in response to BolivrBob:

It appears we have a new "one" at running back. I predict Dobbs will be our Qback before our season is over. I also predict our defense will be much improved and win us some games they lost us last season.

i agree, dobbs will be the starting qb. worley and peterman better step it up cause dobbs can play ball.

GOVOLStcomp31 writes:

I hope my brother and sister Vol fans realize that Jones was running a generic offense saturday. He is not going to show a brand new shceme to the SEC scouts that were in attendence. Hill looked very good, QB's need alot of work, and D looked really good! Im not saying we were great, and everyone is wrong, but I am saying we had alot of key players out (Couch, Richardson, Maggit, Reeves-Maybin, Paul Harris) and we were running a generic style offense, for what its worth, the boys were more excited Saturday than the past 3 years, and LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALL TEAM!!!!! FINALLY

johnlg00 writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Why do you say 61,076 is considered generous? You say half hour before kickoff, upper deck was bare. Then you say at kickoff the lower bowl was full with clumps of fans in upper deck. Can you be any more wishy washy with your reporting???
And if your going to dispute the official crowd attendance, back it up with more than your eyeball guesstimation.

Weren't there a lot of free tickets for the O&W game? If so, there was no reliable "tickets sold" count. Turnstile counts don't get everybody either, so arriving at an accurate count of people who actually showed up is not as simple as you seem to think.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to GOVOLStcomp31:

I hope my brother and sister Vol fans realize that Jones was running a generic offense saturday. He is not going to show a brand new shceme to the SEC scouts that were in attendence. Hill looked very good, QB's need alot of work, and D looked really good! Im not saying we were great, and everyone is wrong, but I am saying we had alot of key players out (Couch, Richardson, Maggit, Reeves-Maybin, Paul Harris) and we were running a generic style offense, for what its worth, the boys were more excited Saturday than the past 3 years, and LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALL TEAM!!!!! FINALLY

I think you and west_tn_volfan are both right. They didn't have everybody they expect to play and they don't want to tip their hand to the opposition. The Vols may need every edge they can get next season. They will be a mystery to everybody until they hit the field for real, and maybe for awhile after that.

exlineman writes:

in response to GOVOLStcomp31:

I hope my brother and sister Vol fans realize that Jones was running a generic offense saturday. He is not going to show a brand new shceme to the SEC scouts that were in attendence. Hill looked very good, QB's need alot of work, and D looked really good! Im not saying we were great, and everyone is wrong, but I am saying we had alot of key players out (Couch, Richardson, Maggit, Reeves-Maybin, Paul Harris) and we were running a generic style offense, for what its worth, the boys were more excited Saturday than the past 3 years, and LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALL TEAM!!!!! FINALLY

Excellent post GOVolStcomp31 puts things into proper perspective. Keep up the great posts.

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