Vol replacing Vol?

Vol replacing Vol?

Jamal Lewis put together seven 1,000-yard seasons during his nine-year NFL career but is retiring after spending the last seven games of 2009-10 on the Cleveland Browns' injured reserve list.

Appropriately enough, the former Tennessee standout's role probably will be assumed by another hard-running ex-Vol. The Browns selected Montario Hardesty in Round 2 of last weekend's NFL Draft, suggesting he will join Cleveland's tailback tandem for 2010.

Lewis rushed for a career-low 500 yards last season while splitting carries with Jerome Harrison. Harrison, a 5-9, 205-pounder, is a four-year veteran who averaged 4.4 yards per carry en route to 862 rushing yards. He scored five touchdowns and had a long run of 71 yards.

Other than Harrison, there really isn't much standing between Hardesty and a starting job in Cleveland. The franchise's other tailback candidates are 2009 rookies James Davis (5-11, 218) and Chris Jennings (5-10, 218), along with former Georgia Bulldog Thomas Brown (5-8, 203), a two-year NFL veteran.

Davis carried just nine times for 15 yards (1.7 per carry) last season. Jennings averaged 3.5 per carry en route to 220 yards and one touchdown. Brown did not get a touch, spending almost the entire season on the practice squad.

The only other rushers on Cleveland's current roster are fullbacks Peyton Hillis (6-1, 240) and Jed Collins (6-1, 255). Hillis, who gained just 54 yards for Denver last season, was acquired from the Broncos March 14 in the Brady Quinn trade. Collins, who has no NFL carries to date, is trying out with his fifth NFL team in three years.

Statistically at least, the Browns boasted the NFL's most balanced offense last season - recording 2,087 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing, compared to 2,076 yards and 11 TDs passing. Still, they finished 29th among the 32 NFL teams in scoring at a paltry 15.3 points per game.

Hardesty, who rushed for 1,345 yards as a Vol senior last fall, has the combination of power and burst to help fix Cleveland's scoring woes. A very effective runner in the red zone, he scored 26 career touchdowns for the Big Orange, with exactly half of them coming in 2009.

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