The undersized walk-on from Norfolk made the most memorable run of Saturday’s Tennessee football scrimmage, bolting through a hole at right tackle, juking safety Jonathan Hefney off his feet with a nifty move, then racing to the end zone to complete a 55-yard touchdown burst.
Head coach Phillip Fulmer called it “a big-time run” but Yancey was more inclined to discuss his worst play than his best play.
“I had a fumble that I really didn’t care too much about,” he said. “You can’t afford to have the ball on the ground. Other than that, things went all right.”
Obviously. Yancey finished with 63 yards on just five carries, an average of better than 12 yards per touch. His best gain came late in the scrimmage. Linebacker Ryan Karl blitzed from the outside, leaving a gaping hole that Yancey burst through.
“It was a blitz actually, and the line did a good job picking it up,” Yancey said modestly. “I just ran it out, saw the hole, then tried to take off and make sure nobody could catch me.”
When Hefney came up to make the stop, Yancey faked him out so badly that Hefney skidded to the turf without so much as getting a hand on the ball carrier.
“He was taking a deep angle to try to cut me off,” Yancey noted. “I just read his feet and hips, then cut back so he wouldn’t catch me.”
David Yancey is perhaps the most inspiring story in recent Vol history. He worked so hard and performed so well in practice that he earned a scholarship for 2004, his second year at UT. Although his mother was bed-ridden with cancer, he showed up in Dallas for the 2005 Cotton Bowl game. Yancey posted a career-high 59 rushing yards on 13 carries that day against Texas A&M but had his celebration curtailed by news that his mother had died a few hours earlier.
Due to the Vols’ great recruiting haul in February of 2005, Yancey had to surrender his scholarship last fall. As if that weren’t disappointing enough, he was stuck behind Gerald Riggs and Arian Foster, getting just 13 carries all season. Still, he never complained.
Yancey is listed No. 5 on the tailback depth chart this spring behind Foster, Montario Hardesty, JaKouri Williams and LaMarcus Coker. Williams is the only back in that group healthy enough to compete this spring, so Yancey should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself … again.
“We’re getting a lot of good work in,” he said. “Each individual is getting a lot of positive work.”
To bolster depth in the rushing corps, Tennessee has switched Ricardo Kemp from defensive back to running back this spring. Kemp carried four times for 24 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage and looked pretty quick.
“Ricardo is doing real good,” Yancey said. “He’s learning his steps, which is the main thing. He has the natural ability, and he’s coming along real well.”