Rajion Neal, Marlin Lane form friendly tandem in Vols' backfield

No 'me-first' thinking for backfield duo

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones motions towards Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) and Tennessee running back Marlin Lane (15) during the second half against Western Kentucky
at Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones motions towards Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) and Tennessee running back Marlin Lane (15) during the second half against Western Kentucky at Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

It was a symbolic show of unity that made for a somewhat awkward interview.

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Comments » 7

johndavid writes:

The best man is Lane, always has been always will. Check the stats or the eye test, not even close. What team in Division 1 doesn't have a better back than ONEAL, not many. If you take away the 4 and inches wide open ( you and I could have made against Georgia) 50 yd gallop that one defender finished him easily in the open field as usual he is back to his normal 3 yd avg. Agaist S. Bama his long run came after a teammate knocked him to the daylight changing his direction abruptly , something he cannot do ( see daylight or change directions quickly as opposed to most Div 1 backs) I hope he gets 300 against Bama but I feel most backs in the country are better than ONEAL.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johndavid:

The best man is Lane, always has been always will. Check the stats or the eye test, not even close. What team in Division 1 doesn't have a better back than ONEAL, not many. If you take away the 4 and inches wide open ( you and I could have made against Georgia) 50 yd gallop that one defender finished him easily in the open field as usual he is back to his normal 3 yd avg. Agaist S. Bama his long run came after a teammate knocked him to the daylight changing his direction abruptly , something he cannot do ( see daylight or change directions quickly as opposed to most Div 1 backs) I hope he gets 300 against Bama but I feel most backs in the country are better than ONEAL.

The name is "Neal" not "Oneal", whoever that is. While Rajion is not an Earl Campbell or Barry Sanders, he has made great strides this season. No question in my mind that the Vols would have been in a lot of trouble this year if they didn't have Neal playing the way he has. Even if you are correct that Lane is better than Neal, could you really say that anybody ELSE at RB is better than Neal? The Vols have to go with who they've got, not who they might WISH they had, and Neal has pretty much stepped up to the challenge.

slb1zellwood#1421797 writes:

I live just a few miles from Tom Smiths home in
Apopka Fla and this kid in high school was a great running back but I guess it didn't carry over to the college level and that is sad. I surely hope next year that he can regain his MoJo because if he can he will be something special.

johndavid writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The name is "Neal" not "Oneal", whoever that is. While Rajion is not an Earl Campbell or Barry Sanders, he has made great strides this season. No question in my mind that the Vols would have been in a lot of trouble this year if they didn't have Neal playing the way he has. Even if you are correct that Lane is better than Neal, could you really say that anybody ELSE at RB is better than Neal? The Vols have to go with who they've got, not who they might WISH they had, and Neal has pretty much stepped up to the challenge.

Summerhill, Smith,Howard etc and 3 or 4 backs on W ky and everybodies top 2 are better than Neal. Every 1st and 2nd team back for the last 39 yrs of vol fb are better than Neal. I'm happy we have him because we would be even thinner at RB. I actually think our other 5 backs are better and would make every run Neal makes and a few more. I never said he isn't giving 100% or isn't 100% Vol etc. He just isn't the average SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 12 etc back or the average Vol tailback of the last 40 yrs. Wish He was. Many backs are so hard to tackle one on one or even one on 2 or 3. Neal seems to get only whats obviously there and little or no more. He has poor vision and cutting ability as the guys on the radio said thinking out loud that they couldn't believe he kept missing the holes! Has he ever run over anyone or made anyone look foolish inthe open field? Basically I'm saying his highlight reel is short.

Could we really say the Summerhill, Smith, etc are not as good or better? I liked what I saw of them. I have not seen them leave any yds on the table. Maybe they don't block or take care of the ball as well as NEAL I really don't know? I really don't know why I WAS calling him Oneal either? One day I'll learn to spell RAJION ALSO! GO vols . Prove me wrong Neal run over and around some Bama D.

I should of just said what past Vol starting TB would you not trade him for?

underthehill writes:

in response to johndavid:

Summerhill, Smith,Howard etc and 3 or 4 backs on W ky and everybodies top 2 are better than Neal. Every 1st and 2nd team back for the last 39 yrs of vol fb are better than Neal. I'm happy we have him because we would be even thinner at RB. I actually think our other 5 backs are better and would make every run Neal makes and a few more. I never said he isn't giving 100% or isn't 100% Vol etc. He just isn't the average SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 12 etc back or the average Vol tailback of the last 40 yrs. Wish He was. Many backs are so hard to tackle one on one or even one on 2 or 3. Neal seems to get only whats obviously there and little or no more. He has poor vision and cutting ability as the guys on the radio said thinking out loud that they couldn't believe he kept missing the holes! Has he ever run over anyone or made anyone look foolish inthe open field? Basically I'm saying his highlight reel is short.

Could we really say the Summerhill, Smith, etc are not as good or better? I liked what I saw of them. I have not seen them leave any yds on the table. Maybe they don't block or take care of the ball as well as NEAL I really don't know? I really don't know why I WAS calling him Oneal either? One day I'll learn to spell RAJION ALSO! GO vols . Prove me wrong Neal run over and around some Bama D.

I should of just said what past Vol starting TB would you not trade him for?

I think most UT fans would agree with much of what you say and want Neal to prove them wrong..but as John says ..they have to go with what they've got and just do they best they can this year..sure is good to see the O line playing better..

FWBVol writes:

in response to johndavid:

Summerhill, Smith,Howard etc and 3 or 4 backs on W ky and everybodies top 2 are better than Neal. Every 1st and 2nd team back for the last 39 yrs of vol fb are better than Neal. I'm happy we have him because we would be even thinner at RB. I actually think our other 5 backs are better and would make every run Neal makes and a few more. I never said he isn't giving 100% or isn't 100% Vol etc. He just isn't the average SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 12 etc back or the average Vol tailback of the last 40 yrs. Wish He was. Many backs are so hard to tackle one on one or even one on 2 or 3. Neal seems to get only whats obviously there and little or no more. He has poor vision and cutting ability as the guys on the radio said thinking out loud that they couldn't believe he kept missing the holes! Has he ever run over anyone or made anyone look foolish inthe open field? Basically I'm saying his highlight reel is short.

Could we really say the Summerhill, Smith, etc are not as good or better? I liked what I saw of them. I have not seen them leave any yds on the table. Maybe they don't block or take care of the ball as well as NEAL I really don't know? I really don't know why I WAS calling him Oneal either? One day I'll learn to spell RAJION ALSO! GO vols . Prove me wrong Neal run over and around some Bama D.

I should of just said what past Vol starting TB would you not trade him for?

I have to wonder why you chose the number 39 years. Maybe you could go back say 45 years to the days of Curt Watson, the Crossville Comet. I would take Neal over Bobby Emmons, 1976 and Kelsey Finch, 1977. I love Eric Berry and I think the world of his dad, James Berry a solid running back for the Vols, but I would take Neal over James Berry, who carried the rock for the Vols in the early 1980s.

The fact is starting with Johnnie Jones in 1983, when he became the first Vol to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season, we've had a very good run at tailback.

Could Neal beat out guys like Jones, Reggie Cobb, Chuck Webb, Tony Thompson, Little Man and on and on? Probably not, but each one of those guys had NFL type talent even if Thompson was lacking NFL size.

If our other five backs were better, as you think, I believe Butch Jones would have those guys on the field right now instead of Neal.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johndavid:

Summerhill, Smith,Howard etc and 3 or 4 backs on W ky and everybodies top 2 are better than Neal. Every 1st and 2nd team back for the last 39 yrs of vol fb are better than Neal. I'm happy we have him because we would be even thinner at RB. I actually think our other 5 backs are better and would make every run Neal makes and a few more. I never said he isn't giving 100% or isn't 100% Vol etc. He just isn't the average SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 12 etc back or the average Vol tailback of the last 40 yrs. Wish He was. Many backs are so hard to tackle one on one or even one on 2 or 3. Neal seems to get only whats obviously there and little or no more. He has poor vision and cutting ability as the guys on the radio said thinking out loud that they couldn't believe he kept missing the holes! Has he ever run over anyone or made anyone look foolish inthe open field? Basically I'm saying his highlight reel is short.

Could we really say the Summerhill, Smith, etc are not as good or better? I liked what I saw of them. I have not seen them leave any yds on the table. Maybe they don't block or take care of the ball as well as NEAL I really don't know? I really don't know why I WAS calling him Oneal either? One day I'll learn to spell RAJION ALSO! GO vols . Prove me wrong Neal run over and around some Bama D.

I should of just said what past Vol starting TB would you not trade him for?

OK, many of us have said some of the same things about Neal and wondered why he did or didn't do this or that. I could surely name a good dozen or so former Vol backs off the top of my head that I would rather have.

But do you really think that the coaches who see ALL of the guys EVERY DAY think that any of those others are better but just like Rajion's beard better or something? When they are looking every day for playmakers at every position, why on earth would they play him if they thought there was somebody better? And if THEY don't think they have anybody better, why would you?

There is a lot more that goes into being a good back than sheer running ability, as important as that is. Most of us trust the competence of the coaches to put the guy, from among the AVAILABLE guys, in each position that gives the team as a whole its best chance to win. Don't you?

Obviously, fans' opinions will differ; that's why this board exists. I have no reason to favor Neal over anybody else for any reason other than what they contribute to the team. I can wish for more from him and I am pretty sure the coaches do, too, but I can also appreciate what he and all the rest actually do for the team every day and I can easily see that he is doing WAY MORE of that than he has to this point in his career. That is all I feel I can reasonably ask of him or anybody else and I hope upon reflection that you will agree.

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