‘Going To Be Real Dangerous’: Tennessee Returns Deep, Talented Running Back Room

'Going To Be Real Dangerous': Tennessee Returns Deep, Talented Running Back Room

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football will have lots of new faces at skill positions next fall. Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, Cedric Tillman and Princeton Fant are off to professional football but there’s one spot that will look similar.

The Vols’ running back room returns their top three rushers from last season as Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson are all back for another season in Knoxville.

While Small and Wright were Tennessee’s main two running backs for much of 2022 while Sampson adjusted to college football, the three are likely to create a three headed monster for the Vols this season.

“We all learn from each other,” Sampson said of the trio Monday. “Going into my second year. Them two going into extra years. It’s like everything we do on the practice field, we talk with each other, we play with each other and we all want to be the one to make the plays and all that. We have a good brotherhood and set up to where anything happens it’s just making us stronger. Making us better. We all try to be versatile, run hard. We do anything we can to help each other.”

Tennessee’s running back room suffered from a lack of depth last season with only four healthy scholarship running backs and Small and Wright were the Vols’ only ball carriers with experience.

Small totaled 734 yards and 13 touchdowns while Wright totaled 875 yards and 10 touchdowns and Sampson added 397 yards and six touchdowns. The Louisiana freshman was better as the season went on and totaled 229 yards in the Vols’ final two SEC games.

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With a deeper, more experienced group entering the 2023 season, Tennessee’s running back room is looking for even more production.

“You never want to be short or limited at running back,” Sampson said. “Last year we were a little short but were able to get our way through the season. Jabari got banged up at times but we get a healthy running back room coming back in the fall it’s going to be real dangerous and real good for our team and program. We all compliment and help each other.”

With SEC Offensive Player of the Year Hendon Hooker of to the NFL, Tennessee’s offense could lean heavier on its run game this season. The Vols ran the ball often a year ago but their passing attack made them one of the nation’s best offenses.

Tennessee is likely to lean harder on its running game this fall and the trio of Small, Wright and Sampson could lead the way for a new look Volunteer offense. The Vols will need extra depth and signed three prep running backs in the 2023 recruiting class.

Two of those running backs — Cameron Seldon and DeSean Bishop — are already on campus going through spring practice. Bishop impressed Josh Heupel in Tennessee’s Saturday scrimmage and Sampson had plenty of good things to say about the local standout.

“He just runs hard,” Sampson said of Bishop. “I think that’s the thing at least you can ask them to do when they’re trying to think about plays and lining up— especially how fast we play— but he runs hard and he finishes his plays. He’s still getting it together with learning how to play fast but he’s been doing really good with his physicality and effort.”

Author: Ethan Moore