The depth of the Tennessee backfield will be put to test Saturday during the Volunteers annual Orange and White game from Neyland Stadium with the indefinite suspension of the team’s second leading rusher Marlin Lane for what Butch Jones deemed disciplinary reasons.
Lane rushed for 658 yards last season on 120 carries, which was good for 5.5 yards per rush. He combined with Rajion Neal, who led the team with 708 yards, as the Tennessee ground game made major strides from their underachieving performance from the previous year when Tauren Poole managed only 3.7 yards per carry as the featured back.
Jones told Chris Low from ESPN.com that the door is open for Lane to return to the team.
“He has some criteria that has to be met, and he’s meeting that criteria,” Jones said. “But as of right now, he’s still out.”
The 5-11, 205-pound rising junior was in line to potentially be the starter this season and with the Volunteers returning four starters on the offensive line from a year ago the run game was expected to be a focal point of the offense. Considering the Volunteers are losing a number of skill players on offense including quarterback Tyler Bray and the team’s top four receivers to the NFL his absence is a huge blow.
Lane really emerged down the stretch last season and in the last four games of the season became a viable receiving threat out of the backfield and totaled 15 receptions while averaging 113 yards from scrimmage in the team’s final four games. His absence opens the door for redshirt freshman Alden Hill who has looked this spring including in last week’s scrimmage.
My opinion is that Lane ultimately will be reinstated to the Tennessee team after he meets the unknown requirements established by Jones, but that’s a sensitive subject because right now we can only speculate (academics?) the exact reasons that resulted in Lane being suspended.
Maybe I’m just hopeful and don’t want another talented young man to see his talent go to waste. Here’s to the hope that Lane can get back in the good graces with Jones and Tennessee very soon, because if the Vols are going to be bowl-eligible this season, they will need Lane to be a productive member of the team.
Before that can happen he needs to realize he needs to get his life in order, and he’s got a lot of people counting on him and rooting for him to do just that.