Dual threat

Dual threat

A lot of Tennessee fans are wondering who will be the big-play specialist in the running game and in the passing game this fall. Well, it might be the same guy.

Junior tailback Tauren Poole popped the longest scrimmage run (18 yards) and also turned in the longest pass play (33 yards) Saturday in leading the White past the Orange 16-7 in UT's spring game at Neyland Stadium.

Those who follow Tennessee football already knew Poole could run based on the fact he had a 67-yard touchdown run in the first spring scrimmage and a 65-yarder in the second. They didn't know he could catch the ball.

He can.

In addition to leading all O&W rushers with 43 yards on 12 attempts, Poole parlayed three receptions into another 58 yards to finish the day with 101 all-purpose yards.

Afterward, he admitted that catching the ball is nothing new. He did a lot of that during his days at Stephens County High School of Toccoa, Ga.

"The coaches got me the ball a lot out of the backfield because they (opponents) would fill the box up with eight men because we ran the ball a lot," he said. "I felt like I always had to have the hands to kind of break that."

Even catching the ball a lot in high school, Poole found himself lacking as a receiver once he arrived at UT. Instead of having swing passes lobbed at him, he was having to learn an assortment of routes and learn to gather in hard throws coming at him from different angles.

"I really had to work on that when I got to college," he said. "I got the ball a lot in high school but not like here. In high school we'd just run an angle route and he (quarterback) would put it right in front of me, and I'd take it from there."

Poole caught just one pass as a sophomore last fall, so his three-catch outing on Saturday was a little surprising.

"That's just the quarterback's reads," Poole said. "He checked down a lot today, and it felt good to actually get that chance to make plays."

At 5-11 and 205 pounds, Poole isn't Tennessee's biggest back or its fastest back. He's big enough to run through some would-be tacklers, however, and he's fast enough to run by others.

"I definitely have a different style," he said.

Poole's most impressive run Saturday was not his 18-yarder but a five-yarder late in the first quarter. Blasted by cornerback Eric Gordon three yards downfield, Poole bounced off the lick, veered to his right and somehow maintained his balance long enough to lung forward for another couple of yards.

"I don't want the first guy to bring me down," he said. "I want to always make big plays."

Poole rushed for a team-best 8.5 yards-per-carry average last season but got just 10 carries all season. That's because Montario Hardesty had a spectacular senior season (1,345 yards) and Lane Kiffin had promised heralded Bryce Brown and David Oku significant playing time as freshmen.

With Kiffin gone, Poole is getting a legitimate shot at the first-team job, and he's making the most of it. Now that he has wrapped up a solid spring, his next step is simple.

"Just developing as an entire player," Poole said. "I want to work on becoming more physical. This is the SEC, the best conference in America. I want to get better - get bigger, faster, stronger. I'm not where I want to be but I'm getting closer to being where I want to be."

Based on the work ethic Poole has shown this spring, head coach Derek Dooley believes the talented tailback will get there.

"Tauren has made big plays in every scrimmage - the spring game and the two scrimmages," Dooley said, "so I'm really pleased with how he's running the ball.

"We still need David Oku to keep coming on, and I think he will. But I'm really pleased with Poole. He's got great character and he's a hard worker. He's a hard runner. He can go out and do some things in the passing game and can break a lot of tackles. He's going to be a real key for us."

InsideTennessee.com Recommended Stories