Tennessee football: Top 10 rushing leaders in Vols history

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From Peyton Manning, even to Hendon Hooker’s breakout year in 2022, the Tennessee Volunteers have been more known for the passing game than ground-and-pound. Still, the Vols have had some great running backs in their history, including some who went on to have great NFL careers.

Last season, this new era of Tennessee football was all about the dynamic receivers and big-arm quarterback, but now Josh Huepel’s offense is top 10 in rushing yards.

We’ll go through the top 10 all-time rushers in Tennessee football history, but you can check out the complete list and see where this year’s leading rusher falls HERE.

Tennessee fullback Curt Watson (31) heads for the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run after his blockers, including center Mike Bevans (51), opened a big hole in the middle of Auburn’s defense. Tennessee won the big SEC showdown 45-19 over Auburn before 57,826 fans at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 1969.
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Tennessee football career rushing leader No. 10: Curt Watson (1969-71)

  • 2,364 rushing yards
  • 22 rushing touchdowns
  • 4.5 yards per rush

In the late 60s and early 70s, an offense could still be built around a fullback and Tennessee’s certainly was. The 6-foot 215-pound “Crossville Comet” led the Volunteers to an SEC Championship in 1969, his sophomore year. That was his most productive season, rushing for 807 yards on 146 carries. He finished second in the SEC in rushing yards.

Even with a change at head coach from Doug Dickey to Bill Battle, the Volunteers won nine,10, and then 11 games in Watson’s three-year career. That stretch included the 1971 Sugar Bowl over Air Force.

Watson eclipsed 750 rushing yards in each of his three years and was top three in the conference in rushing each season.

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