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Three & Out returns to give you a periodic look at what's going on this spring in the SEC. In today's edition, we take a look at the Vols running back situation, a running back setting the tone in Columbia and a stud wide receiver that could be expanding his role in Athens.
WHO WILL STEP UP AT RUNNING BACK FOR THE VOLS?
The news of Tennessee running back Bryce Brown's departure from the Vols football program was just another storyline in an off-season of turmoil in Knoxville. While the expectations for the Vols in 2010 will be understandably low, running back is a position of depth for the Vols, so the impact of Brown's departure will be less severe than it would be at other spots.
David Oku is one guy that immediately comes to mind to replace Brown. Oku, who had 94 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in 2009, was the No. 9 running back in the nation in 2009 according to Scout.com. He didn't get a lot of action last season thanks to Brown and Montario Hardesty, but Oku came in to Knoxville with nearly as much hype as Brown. Can he transform hype into on-the-field success? We'll see. But he's got all the tools to be successful in the SEC.
Another running back to keep an eye on is Tauren Poole. The junior from Toccoa, Ga., only rushed for 85 yards last year on 10 carries in 2009 – primarily against Western Kentucky. Poole certainly doesn't lack confidence. The rising junior lobbied then-Vols head coach Lane Kiffin for playing time early and often last season.
Considering the ongoing quarterback battle that's taking place in Knoxville, finding a running back to stabilize the offense will be very important for first-year head coach Derek Dooley. The loss of Brown will hurt, but the cupboard is hardly bare in the Vols backfield.
GILES SHINES IN FIRST GAMECOCKS SCRIMMAGE
While the Vols are searching for a running back, the South Carolina Gamecocks may have found one – and his name isn't Marcus Lattimore.
Jarvis Giles had quite a day on Saturday in the Gamecock's first scrimmage of the spring, finishing the day with eight carries for 82 yards and a 50-yard touchdown run.
"Jarvis had some long runs. He hit some nice little cracks there. We ran the ball pretty decent a lot of the time today," said Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier.
As Travis Haney of the Charleston Post and Courier points out, most of Giles' yards came against the second-team defense. At this point though, any success in the running game for the Gamecocks has to be encouraging for South Carolina fans. They finished 2009 averaging 125 yards per game on the ground – last in the SEC.
Whether it's Giles, Lattimore or someone else getting the majority of the carries in 2010, someone has to step up. With stud wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley on the roster, even an adequate running game may be all Spurrier needs to get that offense to click.
GREEN MAY EXPAND ROLE FOR THE BULLDOGS
The Georgia Bulldogs auditioned several people at punt returner at Saturday's practice at Sanford Stadium, and one of the names may jump out a bit.
Junior wide receiver A.J. Green, hands down the best offensive skill player on the Bulldogs roster, was among the group of players auditioning to take over the role vacated by the recently-departed Prince Miller.
Green last returned punts at Summerville (S.C.) High School, where he returned 12 for touchdowns during his career.
Some people will worry about Green getting injured while returning punts, but I'm not one of them. Getting the ball in the hands of your top players is job No. 1 for any head coach. Putting Green back at punt returner is a good way to do that.
Is it risky? Sure. But so is using your best athlete as a wildcat quarterback, putting starters on special teams, etc. If Green's the best man for the job, put him back there.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2010 Spring Three & Out Archive
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 21, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 5, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 2, 2010
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