clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Young running backs impressing after being forced into action this spring

They’re getting up to speed quickly.

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK

Spring practice continues to roll on in Knoxville as Tennessee preps for the 2023 season. One interesting dynamic that’s playing out on the offensive side of the ball is the use of the young running backs, with Jabari Small sidelined after an offseason surgery. That means Dylan Sampson, Cameron Seldon and Desean Bishop have been getting plenty of work behind Jaylen Wright.

Tennessee’s explosive rushing attack didn’t have much depth last year, but this situation here could change that as we get closer to the fall. After Tennessee’s second spring scrimmage, Josh Heupel broke down what he’s seen from that young trio so far.

“I thought the running backs as an entire group were extremely positive today,” Heupel said last week. “Dylan Sampson made some people miss and did a great job pressing double-teams. Cameron Seldon did a really nice job running the football. Great job taking good care of it, DeSean Bishop. There were a lot of really good things from those running backs.”

Seldon and Bishop are going through their first spring sessions, getting up to speed in Heupel’s unique offense. Seldon, who signed as an athlete and potentially as a receiver, has started out at running back. The lack of depth is probably why.

The 6-1, 225 pound prospect looks the part, and he’s learning the little things to begin his college career.

“The last couple of practices have been really solid from him,” Heupel said of Seldon. “He’s ran with good pad level. He’s transitioned from playing a lot out in space to being in the running back position really full-time. He’s continuing to grow in his understanding of how to press the line of scrimmage and understand how things are going to be brought from some different fronts. Took good care of the football today, he got pad under pad, he finished plus-two, a lot of positives.”

A lesser-known prospect, Desean Bishop, was a late add to Tennessee’s 2023 class. Bishop was a guy that wasn’t heavily recruited and comes right out of the Volunteers’ backyard. He was ranked outside of the top 1000, per 247Sports, but the Tennessee staff clearly saw something they liked.

“Not surprising what DeSean has done,” Heupel said. “I say that, he’s handled the transition into college football extremely well. We thought he was extremely athletic, he had a great vision, pace as a running back coming out of high school. He’s done a really good job of handling the communication system and not being too big for him since day one. Really proud of him.”

Bishop come from Karns High School in Knoxville. He’s been forced up to speed quickly, which is something that could pay dividends should the injury bug bite.

“We are going to need them all,” Heupel said of his running back room. “There are times where you stay healthy for a long period of time. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. We are going to need all of these guys throughout the course of the season. With competition, iron sharpens iron. We are going to need that. Everybody on this roster better believe they will have an opportunity to play next fall and continue to sharpen their skills. It’s fundamentals, it’s technique and it’s understanding what we do offensively, defensively and on special teams. Being able to be a mature competitor and handle everything that comes at you.”

We saw in 2021 how the injuries can pile up in the backfield. A banged up Jabari Small, Tiyon Evans and Len’Neth Whitehead forced then true freshman Jaylen Wright into big action late in the year. It’s possible that we get that again, so getting everyone up to speed and ready to roll has been a big objective this spring.

We’ll see all of these guys in action this Saturday, as Tennessee takes to Neyland Stadium to play their annual Orange and White Game.