If the Tennessee Volunteers plan to upset the Florida Gators on Saturday, they’ll need to commit to the running game early and often.
The Vols have had success running the ball so far this season, but not as much success as Butch Jones would like.
Rajion Neal has been the number one running back since day one of the Butch Jones era, but that could soon be changing.
Don’t get me wrong, Neal is a quality running back and he’s done a good job as the starter so far. Neal does, however, have some bad habits that limit his success.
The senior from Fayetteville, Ga likes to bounce runs to the outside a little too often.
There were a couple of times against Oregon that Neal missed interior running lanes because he was looking to the outside as soon as he received the handoff from Justin Worley.
While Butch Jones praised Neal for doing better running North and South, he still has room for improvement that area.
Marlin Lane, on the other hand, looks to be a much better North/South runner. Lane showed a penchant for good vision against Oregon. He stayed patient and hit the holes. In addition to finding the right running lanes, he also picked up a couple of tough extra yards on several of his carries.
According to Butch Jones, Marlin Lane is now pushing Neal for a heavier workload, especially now that Lane is 100% healthy.
Jones: You will see more of Marlin Lane. He has been slowed by an ankle injury Last week was the first time he ran with authority. He’s 100%
If you’re going solely off stats, you’d think that Neal has been the better running back so far this season. After-all, Neal is averaging 6.0 yards a carry, to Lane’s 5.7 yards a carry.
But if you take away Neal’s 45 yard run during the Vols’ win over Austin Peay, it brings his average down to 5.0 yards a carry. That’s not a huge difference, but it does show that Lane has been a more consistent rusher, especially between the tackles.
I don’t think Jones should phase Neal out of the offense, but I do believe Lane needs to be getting the majority of the carries.
Neal’s a big asset for the Vols. but Lane looks the part of an SEC caliber running back.
There’s not a better time for Lane to step-up and show that than this Saturday against the Florida Gators.