Marlin Lane's Possible Reinstatement Will Help the Tennessee Volunteers Backfield

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like the Tennessee Volunteers will get deeper at running back thanks to the potential return of one of its top players.

While the school has yet to confirm anything publicly, Knoxville radio talk show host Jimmy Hyams tweeted on Wednesday that Marlin Lane is now back on the team after being suspended this spring.

If this report is true, Lane’s return to the lineup is just what the doctor ordered for a Tennessee squad that lacks depth at running back.

Make no mistake about it: if reinstated, Lane will have to compete for playing time this season. After all, Rajion Neal led the Volunteers in rushing a year ago and solidified his status as the starter with a strong spring. In addition, Alden Hill made the most of his extra snaps during Lane’s absence and figures to see plenty of action on the gridiron this fall.

With that said, Lane’s possible return would give UT another playmaker on offense. Remember, Lane was arguably the Vols’ best running back at the end of the 2012 campaign, rushing for 418 yards in the final six games. After hauling in 29 catches for 228 yards, he’s also the team’s leading returning receiver, something that the offense will need after losing its top four targets from a year ago.

In other words, he would give the Volunteer offense a versatile option at running back. Since Butch Jones likes to run the ball often out of the spread, he needs all of the skilled backs that he can find. Unfortunately, any discussion about Lane’s role this fall is completely moot until the school actually confirms his reinstatement.

The eyes of the college football world will turn to Knoxville with anticipation.

Terry Johnson is a college football writer for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and/or Google+.