Too Much Is Never Enough: Running Backs

Objects in the rear-view mirror may be closer than they appear. - Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The second positional preview for 2014 recruiting.

Current Status

# Name Year Class G GS Stars Rating
15 Marlin Lane 4 SR 35 6 4 0.9272
1 Jalen Hurd 1 FR 0 0 4 0.9803
Derrell Scott 1 FR 0 0 4 0.9408
30 Alden Hill 3 RS SO 8 0 3 0.8547
19 Devrin Young 4 SR 26 1 3 0.821
Treyvon Paulk 1 FR 0 0 3 0.8737

Tennessee finally landed top tier running backs Jalen Hurd and Derrell Scott in the 2013 recruiting class after striking out with Derrick Henry and Derrick Green in the previous recruiting class. Hurd, an early enrollee, will go through spring practice with every opportunity to challenge senior Marlin Lane for the starting role. After bouncing between slot receiver and running back for the last few seasons, senior Devrin Young is back at the running back position to start spring practice, and if he stays there, likely figures as a third-down back. Treyvon Paulk suffered a devastating knee injury that robbed him of the majority of his senior season, and he will probably redshirt under the watchful eye of the strength and conditioning staff. With Lane and Young graduating, expect Hurd and Scott to battle for the starting position in 2015, with Paulk an outside contender. Alden Hill is a candidate to transfer to a lower division school, where his lack of speed is less of a liability.

Need

Most schools keep between five and nine running backs on the roster, and despite signing three running backs in the 2013 class, Tennessee still needs to restock at the position. With Lane graduating, Hill likely to transfer, and Paulk still recovering from injury, Tennessee will look to sign at least one, if not two running backs in the current cycle. The Vols will look to be judicious with fewer scholarships available in the 2014 class, a deep and talented pool of recruits, and increasing interest in Rocky Top.

Targets

Name State Type Interest Stars Rating Commit
Taj Griffin GA APB Cool 4 0.9817 N
Kirk Merritt LA APB Cool 3 0.8862 N
Traveon Samuel AL APB Cool 3 0.8670 N
Bryce Love NC APB Warm 4 0.9237 N
Damien Harris KY RB None 5 0.9903 N
Jovon Robinson GA RB Cool 4 0.9800 N
Jordan Scarlett FL RB None 4 0.9768 Y; FAU
Nick Brossette LA RB None 4 0.9684 Y; LSU
Jacques Patrick FL RB Warm 4 0.9683 N
Eric Swinney GA RB Warm 4 0.9593 N
Larry Scott OH RB Cool 4 0.9546 N
Michael Weber MI RB Warm 4 0.9484 N
Johnny Frasier NC RB Cool 4 0.9382 N
Ray-Ray McCloud III FL RB Cool 4 0.9143 N
Nick Gibson AL RB Warm 3 0.8814 N
Karan Higdon FL RB None 3 0.8704 Y; USF
Joshua Thomas GA RB Warm 3 0.8596 N
Alex Anderson FL RB Cool 3 0.8596 N
Rocky Reid NC RB Warm 3 0.8430 N
James Allen FL RB Cool 3 0.8430 N
Mon Denson GA RB Cool NR NR N
Chandler Cox FL FB Cool 3 0.8296 N

Tennessee has offered scholarships to twenty-two running backs in the current cycle: 4 all-purpose backs, 17 running backs, and one fullback (several athletes are also potential takes at the position).

Names to Know

Before looking at prospects, it's worth mentioning here that it's really early in the evaluation process for running backs, so expect the stars/ratings to change as prospects attend junior days and all-star camps.

Tennessee had targets Taj Griffin, Nick Gibson, Michael Weber, and Rocky Reid on campus last weekend for the first of several scheduled junior day events.

  • Griffin, an undersized but extremely shifty all-purpose back out of Georgia, wowed coaches with his quick feet and darting style, but primary recruiter Robert Gillespie has tons of work to do, as Georgia, Clemson, and Oregon lead his recruitment.
  • Alabama running back Gibson has good straightline speed and a tendency to bounce every run to the outside. If he improves his vision and learns to be more patient, he could easily earn a fourth star in the composite. While Gibson seems to like the Vols, Alabama is tough to beat for in-state prospects, and his high school is just northeast of Birmingham (Pinson Valley HS).
  • Weber is an extremely talented athlete who will most likely end up ranked among the top-ten running backs nationally. On film, his vision, balance, and quick feet are evident as he picks his way through defenses, leaving defenders flat-footed as he sets them up before abruptly avoiding contact with an array of subtle moves. Weber attends longtime Michigan feeder school and Detroit powerhouse Cass Tech, and was long considered a lock to Michigan before Hoke fired his primary recruiter, offensive coordinator Al Borges. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are all heavily recruiting him, but Weber has already visited Knoxville twice already (over the summer and this past weekend's junior day), and the Vols remain firmly in the mix. If Tennessee can get him down for an official visit, watch out.
  • Reid is a big, powerful back out of North Carolina who declared Tennessee his leader after being offered at the junior day event this past weekend. Currently rated three-stars, Reid picked up offers from North Carolina State, Louisville, and Georgia Tech this week, and could see his rating rise as he receives more national exposure. Tennessee may be holding off on a commitment from him as they pursue more highly ranked prospects, as he lacks top-end speed.

Two more prospects to keep an eye on are Georgia running backs Eric Swinney and Joshua Thomas. With offers from virtually every SEC school and Florida State, Swinney is a highly sought after prospect with a good blend of speed and power. Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, and Ole Miss are Tennessee's primary competition for his services, with Auburn and Ole Miss both promising immediate playing time. Thomas, a back who plays with more finesse than his size would suggest, looks likely to commit to Tennessee, having named the Vols his leader. It's not known, however, if the Vols are recruiting him as a running back or a linebacker.

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