Raijon Neal says running back battle is 'wide open'

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal during practice at Haslam Field on Friday, August 2, 2013. 
  
 (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal during practice at Haslam Field on Friday, August 2, 2013. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Butch Jones at first UT preseason practice

The free market in Tennessee’s backfield isn’t reserved for quarterbacks.

Don’t forget there’s another job up for grabs.

“Honestly, it’s wide open,” said UT’s perceived No. 1 running back, Raijon Neal, when asked to describe the position battle for top ball carrier.

It’s a murky openness and might remain that way from the Vols’ first fall practice, held Friday at Haslam Field, to the final practice before the Aug. 31 opener against Austin Peay.

The outlook is skewed because the factors are complex. Neal, a senior, has the most experience, boasting 225 career carries. Marlin Lane, however, averaged a full yard more per carry in 2012 than Neal (5.5 to 4.5), but then traversed a question mark-filed offseason after being suspended from team activities in the spring.

The two are considered the top contenders for starting duties, but Lane, a junior, was left off a preseason depth chart.

Neal says that is a moot point.

“Coach said there’s no depth chart,” said Neal, who rushed for five touchdowns a year ago. “You pretty much have to go out there and compete every day.”

Then there is Alden Hill.

Following Tennessee’s first practice way back in the spring, the redshirt freshman was just another number. Most onlookers still needed to glance at a roster to identify No. 30.

That all changed when Hill took advantage of Lane’s absence to emerge as a significant storyline in spring ball. Unknown not long ago, Hill was surrounded by tape recorders and cameras after Friday’s practice.

Immediately asked about jockeying for playing time, Hill said he wasn't content with his spring performance.

“Yeah I might have a name and people might know what I’m doing or that I’m a hard worker, but I haven’t played yet,” said Hill, who capped his strong spring with 101 yards on 18 carries in the Orange and White game.

“I always knew I could do it and a lot of times I didn’t have opportunities, but once I got the opportunities I made the best of it,” Hill added. “I think now that I have done it, I know I can do it and it’s reassuring to the fans and the coaches, too.”

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Speaking of the running back spot, don’t forget Maryland transfer Justus Pickett. The early summer addition who is a walk-on at UT was on the field Friday and is included in the program’s official roster.

Asked if the 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior is eligible to play, running backs coach Robert Gillespie said, “There’s a few things that we’re working out but we’re still counting his reps and giving him a chance to do a few things. Right now we’re going to give him some reps as if he’s going to be able to help us this year.”

Pickett rushed for 142 yards on 69 carries, scoring three touchdowns in 2012.

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Any freshman initiation is hard to watch, be it in the fraternities dotting the streets around Haslam Field or on the fenced-in field the Vols call home.

Coach Butch Jones’ style of play only highlights the horror. When the Vols get cooking, there is no give-up in between reps. The plays fly like planes in and out of LaGuardia.

In the heat of it all, literally and figuratively this August, Jones and his assistants boom, “Run! Run! Run!”

The veterans got a taste of all this in the spring and played fast under former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

And as veterans tend to do, the upperclassmen are enjoying welcoming the newcomers to the party.

“We’re telling the young guys to pick it up,” said junior offensive tackle Antonio Richardson with no solace. “They don’t really know the pace of practice so sometimes you’ve got to smash those guys up and really let them know, ‘That’s too slow. We’re face paced. You need to move.’ ”

Richardson is 6-6 and 327 pounds. One would imagine his message is heard clearly.

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The injury report is mostly clean and clear after day one. Linebacker Justin King worked out on the sidelines with team trainers, while tight end Justin Meredith watched on out of uniform.

No reason was given for either absence.

In his post-practice press conference, Jones didn’t report any injuries from the first practice.

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Receiver Josh Smith, a graduate of Christian Academy of Knoxville, and defensive back Malik Foreman, a pair of freshmen, were among a number of young players to take a swing at fielding kicks during special teams drills.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee football and men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.

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Comments » 41

sameolvolalum writes:

There's far more talent in this stable than last year's version indicated. And.........in the near future I can hear a thundering Hurd. GBO!

OrangePsyched writes:

I believe we have 3 solid running backs. I don't know if any of the 3 have star quality but if they can be effective collectively (in the SEC)then it will help the starting QB greatly. Second down and 5-6 yds. and third an 2 really opens up that playbook. Air raid offense may be more exciting but I love that smash mouth ram it down their throat football.

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

in response to OrangePsyched:

I believe we have 3 solid running backs. I don't know if any of the 3 have star quality but if they can be effective collectively (in the SEC)then it will help the starting QB greatly. Second down and 5-6 yds. and third an 2 really opens up that playbook. Air raid offense may be more exciting but I love that smash mouth ram it down their throat football.

Neal's going to be the man this year... I think the offense is going to go as far as he Takes us... I also want To throw out a prediction, that he goes over 1100 yards this season... I also think that Lane's gonna bust out a good amount of yardage as well... between 600 and 700 yards... with a splash of Hill, and our offense line, I think this is totally possible.
if we play to our strength which is our running game I feel we're looking at big numbers, big wins, big bowl, and big cigars!

GO VOLS!!

Henley-Street-Bridge writes:

Well he'll be able to spot from the stands.. just look for that HUGE Tattoo of his Mother on this right bicep.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I get excited reading this stuff. I confess to not knowing our backups? Maybe not backups to Jones but I haven't read or heard about them. I just don't keep up with football as much as bball. I love it though. To watch.

I'm surprised about Lane and the depth chart!? These older guys should be taking charge. Our RBs have been hesitant since first coming to campus. I hope Jones beats that out of 'em.

volaholic45 writes:

in response to Henley-Street-Bridge:

Well he'll be able to spot from the stands.. just look for that HUGE Tattoo of his Mother on this right bicep.

Oh, that's his mother. I was worried our RB had a tattoo of Peggy Hill on his bicep.

pune91 writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey NINE, what is the url for the Gator website? I don't know it because I have NEVER VISITED THE SITE BEFORE! Why don't you spend more time following your stellar alumni Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez!?!

Orange_Power_T writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And FLA is renown for quality quarterbacks!

http://www.thefumble.com/tim-tebow/ti...

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to volaholic45:

Oh, that's his mother. I was worried our RB had a tattoo of Peggy Hill on his bicep.

Looks like Rosa Parks to me

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Pickett..142 yards on 69 carries?? That's so bad it must be a misprint

antonio14313 writes:

in response to pune91:

Hey NINE, what is the url for the Gator website? I don't know it because I have NEVER VISITED THE SITE BEFORE! Why don't you spend more time following your stellar alumni Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez!?!

Riley Cooper went to Florida too?!? Jeez, makes ya wonder what they're doing down there in "lovely" Gainesville...

Go Vols.

t

antonio14313 writes:

I always like it when there isn't a starter named this early in the season. It makes these players work even harder to earn the starting position. Iron sharpens iron...

Go Vols!

t

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Pickett..142 yards on 69 carries?? That's so bad it must be a misprint

If not, maybe he's a fourth-and-inches specialist.

With only 3 TDs it's evident he's not the second-coming of Sam "The Bam" Cunningham.

But running back has always been a position where something inside happens--maybe vision, technique, and confidence all come together--and a kid suddenly goes from zero to hero.

We could use a surprise at that position this year.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

RN may have a big year in 2013..His style fits this offense with ability to catch the fb out of the backfield and quickness at the point of hand off.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to antonio14313:

Riley Cooper went to Florida too?!? Jeez, makes ya wonder what they're doing down there in "lovely" Gainesville...

Go Vols.

t

Amen! We don't give a flip about Florida.

Go Vols! Keep getting better! Keep working hard! Good times are coming soon!

It's all about the ORANGE!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Pickett..142 yards on 69 carries?? That's so bad it must be a misprint

Transfer from Maryland.
Walk-on.
Seems about right.

CoverOrange writes:

Doesn't really matter who is #1. All three are going to get to play...a lot.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Doesn't really matter who is #1. All three are going to get to play...a lot.

Yep..

west_tn_volfan writes:

in response to antonio14313:

Riley Cooper went to Florida too?!? Jeez, makes ya wonder what they're doing down there in "lovely" Gainesville...

Go Vols.

t

I think gangsville is more appropriate.

BluezVol writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Trailer -

Please go somewhere else and while you're there floss your 7 teeth.

6972 writes:

I noticed D. Young was down on the depth chart. I am curious how they will use his speed this year. Hopefully, it is more than just running back KO and punts. I love speed. It kills.

Chappy writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't you have anything better to do? Oh, that's right, you don't.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to 6972:

I noticed D. Young was down on the depth chart. I am curious how they will use his speed this year. Hopefully, it is more than just running back KO and punts. I love speed. It kills.

He was moved to WR, I thought.

6972 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

He was moved to WR, I thought.

Missed that...thanks.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Talk about a reach, you're so desperate to top Peyton you compared him with a DB from Michigan? Now that's totally conceding FU's qb woes..

Voltransplant writes:

After watching the spring game, I would have to say that Alden Hill is the man to beat. He is not fast, however he is dang near impossible to bring down.
Another thing, Why in the heck is everyone always talking about Florida on here? I thought that this was a Tennessee site. Does Florida not have their own site, or are some people too dumb to know where they are?

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

What running back battle? What running backs? Besides, with Worley at QB, all anyone has to do is load the box and he'll still throw pick sixes like no one else in the league. It's another 5-7; just accept it.

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Talk about a reach, you're so desperate to top Peyton you compared him with a DB from Michigan? Now that's totally conceding FU's qb woes..

Some of those gator qb's have made a career out of reading Peyton's game stats to us and showing us his highlights.

mountainbrook writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

EIGHT = The number of Gators who will be arrested before the end of this season. They are well on their way.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to lemme_axya_this:

Some of those gator qb's have made a career out of reading Peyton's game stats to us and showing us his highlights.

Good point, Jessie Palmer, Danny Woeful to name a couple.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Voltransplant:

After watching the spring game, I would have to say that Alden Hill is the man to beat. He is not fast, however he is dang near impossible to bring down.
Another thing, Why in the heck is everyone always talking about Florida on here? I thought that this was a Tennessee site. Does Florida not have their own site, or are some people too dumb to know where they are?

Voltransplant,

Actually, you are referring to a total idiot. This "so fine clown" is desperate for attention.

Now, I'm going to fuss at you a bit. Don't read the idiot's posts. You, we........know he's a troll with nothing else to do. By now, we all know who the trolls are. Don't play their game.

They ignore their own websites since they're consumed with the Vols. Idiots like this 9, 8 whatever...........are extremely insecure people.
They don't mind everyone knowing they are in fact trolls, they need recognition......crave it.

Just recognize the trolls, ignore them and........let them play with each other for support.

MetroplexMojo writes:

Peyton,

Please take it easy on me this year. I am sure I will be "hurt" when we play you this year. As you know, the only team that wanted me was the most dysfunctional team in pro sports, the Raiders. Even America's team, the Dallas Cowboys, did not want me. They thought D. Dooley was a better fit than me.

Sincerely,

Charles Woodson

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Voltransplant,

Actually, you are referring to a total idiot. This "so fine clown" is desperate for attention.

Now, I'm going to fuss at you a bit. Don't read the idiot's posts. You, we........know he's a troll with nothing else to do. By now, we all know who the trolls are. Don't play their game.

They ignore their own websites since they're consumed with the Vols. Idiots like this 9, 8 whatever...........are extremely insecure people.
They don't mind everyone knowing they are in fact trolls, they need recognition......crave it.

Just recognize the trolls, ignore them and........let them play with each other for support.

Since Vanderbilt hired Franklin, this and the Kentucky site are the only place one can come and observe the behavior of perennial losers.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Since Vanderbilt hired Franklin, this and the Kentucky site are the only place one can come and observe the behavior of perennial losers.

That's funny. Especially coming from a team that used to always lose to UT when they weren't supposed to. I guess you're allowed a little bravo till we do it again. Maybe this year according to a couple of our Butch fans.

Seriously Georgia will need to upset Bama after UT whoops doggie breath Ga.(Sounds a little juvenile doesn't it. You should be familiar with this type of post)

Go UT

Go Ga. when not playing UT.

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to NINEwillstillbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey little zz how did your prediction for the Sugar Bowl turn out bwahahahahaha

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Since Vanderbilt hired Franklin, this and the Kentucky site are the only place one can come and observe the behavior of perennial losers.

wrong, that can be observed at your trailer

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Since Vanderbilt hired Franklin, this and the Kentucky site are the only place one can come and observe the behavior of perennial losers.

What has jojaa won since 1980?? I believe UT holds a winning record over your second rate outfit in Georgia (named after Russia??)..Also, the last time I checked UT was part of the BCS champions, not UGA. I also appreciate the beat down your dawgs put on Boise State a few years back, that was impressive. Oh, they got beat, never mind..

Whizzer writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Transfer from Maryland.
Walk-on.
Seems about right.

Afraid it is not a misprint.
http://espn.go.com/college-football/p...

142/69 = 2.057 YPC...... Why am I not excited?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Whizzer:

Afraid it is not a misprint.
http://espn.go.com/college-football/p...

142/69 = 2.057 YPC...... Why am I not excited?

No reason you should be. He's a WALK-ON. What difference does it make what stats he has? At least he got the stats he did in college ball, where he was a backup, not in HS. If he can play a little bit, fine; if not, we haven't wasted a scholarship.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

Since Vanderbilt hired Franklin, this and the Kentucky site are the only place one can come and observe the behavior of perennial losers.

Well, then, how lucky are we that you come on here every day to demonstrate the behavior of perennial losers in life! We don't even have to troll other teams' sites; their riffraff come to us to display their dysfunction. Unless of course you are the latest incarnation of our favorite home-grown troll, Jeffy F.

GatorHater1998 writes:

in response to utvolfan1955:

wrong, that can be observed at your trailer

HA!

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