The Tennessee running back group is starting to show its potential to coach Jerry Mack, as the Vols get ready for their first scrimmage of spring practice. As the team wrapped up their sixth practice of the spring, Mack had a lot of praise for the work ethic he’s seen out of his group so far.
“As a group right now, I think we are getting a lot better. Every day we kind of come in and we focus on something to get better at. We choose two or three things that we know each man in that room has to get better at something individually and specific. We put the notes on the board, and we go around and talk about what do you have to do individually to get better and then what do we have to do as a group to get better. I’ve been very pleased with the effort they’ve been giving me every single day to try to come out there and really focus on those finer things. Today, the heat kind of got us a little bit. We were sluggish. We were up and down, but toward the end we tried to find a way to push through in that fourth quarter and find a way to come out on top.”
For Dee Beckwith, it’s been constant change over the past year. The previous coaching staff worked him at multiple positions, before finally settling on the running back spot. The key for Beckwith is being able to learn one position and not be put into multiple spots, having to learn different techniques. But as the previous season was coming to an end, the running back room looked like his most comfortable spot.
Jerry Mack knows how hard it is to learn the details of just one position, not to mention others. For this reason, Beckwith is starting to prove himself to this staff at running back.
“Dee’s doing a really incredible job just continuing to learn the finer details of the position every single day. We talk a lot about just playing with low pad level, because he is a taller, bigger back, so just getting his pad level down and just learning some of the intricacies of the position. He played so many different things in high school, and last year, I think they moved him around a little bit, so he’s finally getting into a situation where he’s kind of getting settled in on a position. You talk about extremely intelligent – asking questions in the meetings and just from that quarterback background that he has, you can just tell that he’s got a sense of the entire game and situational football and how everything fits together. I’ve been really pleased with his progress over the last few practices”
Tiyon Evans was in full pads on Tuesday afternoon for the first time this spring, as he’s been nursing an injury over the past few weeks. Evans will be key for this running back group, as they look to establish a strong depth chart, with him being one of the main focuses for the coaching staff.
“Tiyon’s situation is getting better every day. Today he was out there dressed out. He ran around and did some individual drills with us. We’re hoping to have him back really sooner rather than later.”
As for Jabari Small, you could see the glow in Jerry Mack’s eye when talking about the bruiser. Small has the ability to lead Tennessee this year in multiple formations out of the backfield, which is key for this type of offense. But for Mack, he’s feels Jabari is just a natural at his position and is focused on getting better everyday at his position.
“You can just tell Jabari is one of those guys that really was born to play running back. He has a really natural feel. He has great instincts at the position. You can tell he has been really well coached in high school and also, too, with the previous staff. He has a natural feel for that position right now. Every day we come out there, he is disciplined. He is focused. He understands protections right now, which is really intriguing and impressive for a guy of his youth. He has been extremely impressive to everybody on the field. The way he handles his business, the way he goes about his business – he takes care of business like a pro. We talk about that in the room all the time, making sure you’re handling yourself, taking notes and then go out there and apply it to the field. That’s what I’ve been really impressed with by him this entire spring. These first six practices, he’s really sparked and showed his true colors, and I think he’s really going to help us this season.”
This group has the potential to be a staple point for this offense, as Mack mentioned on Tuesday that the first four or five passes went to the running backs out of the backfield. The Vols offense will rely on these guys in multiple ways this season, so it must be nice for Jerry Mack to see this group get better every day.
Depth is never a bad thing, it’s most definitely wanted.