Sophomore running back Dylan Sampson had himself quite the season opener in Nashville on Saturday.
Sampson scored a staggering four total touchdowns, three rushing and one receiving, along with 61 yards from scrimmage in the Vols’ 49-13 win over Virginia.
Sampson’s four-touchdown day was not only a career-high for the 18-year-old, it was the most from any Volunteer running back in the last six years.
The last time a Tennessee running back reached the end zone four times in a single game was September 4, 2017, when John Kelly Jr. scored four times in Tennessee’s season-opener against Georgia Tech.
Dylan Sampson's four touchdowns today are the most by a Tennessee running back since John Kelly Jr. on September 4, 2017 vs. Georgia Tech. Was also a season opener.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 2, 2023
Sampson’s day is an promising sign of what the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native can bring to the table for Tennessee in 2023. Sampson is one-third of the Vols’ three-headed monster at running back including Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small, and all three backs had strong performances against Virginia.
Wright led the way in terms of rushing yards with 115 yards on just 12 carries, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. Small and Sampson each had 13 attempts, with Small finishing the day with 67 yards and Sampson with 52.
As Sampson said after the game, Wright and Small did a great job all game of helping Tennessee get into the red zone. Once in scoring position, Sampson’s name was called, and he delivered with his four scores.
“Leaning on my teammates, especially the O-line, Jabari, and Jay(len) Wright,” Sampson said on how he was able to have a big day. “They did a lot of work getting down the field. And they trusted me to go put it in. That’s what I have to do. Lean on my brothers with them trusting me, too.”
Tennessee’s ability to effectively run the ball was one of the best things about Tennessee win, an encouraging sign for what the trio could be capable of this fall.
“We push each other every single day. It’s fun to have that competition, because you always have to be on your best,” Sampson said. “We all want to be the guy that gets into the endzone and makes the good plays, which makes us even better. But on the flip side of that, we aren’t selfish. We help each other out. We celebrate with our brothers. You never know when you have to lean on your brother. Like today, sometimes they get tired and I have to go in for them, it’s just leaning on brothers and trusting each other. Having that competition with Jabari and Jay(len) Wright, it has only made all of us compete at our best.”
Sampson, Wright and Small will look to build off their spectacular performance as a unit next Saturday when Austin Peay comes to Knoxville for a Week 2 contest.