Senior tailback Arian Foster, who ran for 1,193 yards last fall and needs just 685 to become UT's all-time rushing leader, is wondering the same thing. Like everyone else, he's eager to see how big a role the tailbacks will play in Clawson's system.
“I guess that's kind of hearsay until the season comes,” said Foster, who enters his final season with 2,394 rushing yards. “In the spring it's a lot of situational things, so you can't really get a feel for what he likes to call, what he doesn't like to call.”
If Clawson doesn't call many running plays, he'll be squandering what appears to be a fine stable of running backs. Foster is a 6-1, 225-pounder who is first-team All-SEC in preseason polls. Junior Montario Hardesty is a 6-0, 210-pounder who runs exceptionally hard but has durability issues. Lennon Creer is a 6-1, 210-pound sophomore who averaged 5.9 yards per carry in limited duty last fall. Mid-term enrollee Tauren Poole, a 5-10, 200-pound freshman, showed flashes of big-play potential in spring practice.
Cutcliffe vowed to rely on the ground game in 2007 but rarely delivered on that promise. Perhaps Clawson will be more diligent in giving the ball to his tailbacks.
“From what he tells us, he likes to get his playmakers the ball,” Foster said, “and we've got a lot of playmakers at running back this year.”
One aspect of Clawson's West Coast offense that should make Foster even more productive in 2008 is the extensive use of running backs as receivers out of the backfield. Foster excels in this role, having caught 39 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns last fall. He could catch 50 or more balls in Clawson's scheme.
“I guess that's part of his plan,” the senior tailback said. “That's what he's spoken to me about – that he wants to get me the ball outside of the five linemen.”