Rushing Game Key To Tennessee's Success

By Anthony Cloud
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers lost a heart-breaker to the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday. It is a loss that cost head coach Butch Jones the key victory he was looking for. With that being said, it’s time for the Vols to move on to the next contest, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

If Jones and the Vols learned anything from the loss to Georgia, it’s that the rushing game is the key to success in any game they enter. Compared to the losses to Florida and Oregon, the Vols were able to have some success in the running game against Georgia.

Rajon Neal racked up 148 yards on 28 attempts against the Bulldogs. Alton Hill performed decent as well, rushing for 46 yards on only six carries.

In the 31-17 loss to Florida, Neal only rushed for 42 yards on 12 attempts and Marlin Lane could only muster up 18 yards on five attempts. It wasn’t much better in the 59-14 loss to Oregon, where Neal posted 42 yards on 12 runs and Lane gathered 63 yards on 13 attempts.

For the Vols to finish the season with a decent record in the SEC, the running game has to come together. One of the most common quotes one hears is learn from the past. If we look at the success of the Volunteers in the past, each team had a great running game.

The 1998 national championship team had Travis Henry, Travis Stephens and Jamal Lewis. After the departure of Henry and Lewis, Stephens still was able to post great numbers on a 2001 team that went 11-2. Then there were Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis, Gerald Riggs Jr. and Arian Foster, who carried the load for the Vols in the early to mid 2000s. Each one of those running backs aided the Vols in victory.

Jones needs to start recruiting for the future because it’s hard to believe Tom Smith will be able to carry the load once Neal and Lane depart. The recruitment process for the next great Vols running back needs to begin now.

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