Tennessee football head coach Josh Heupel hasn’t made a habit out of doling out compliments during spring camp. So when he does, it carries some weight.
“I thought the running back as an entire group,” Heupel said when asked what stood out about the Vols following their scrimmage on Thursday.
And who stood out among the running backs? That’s easy. Rising sophomore Dylan Sampson has continued to be been one of the most impressive participants in spring camp.
“Sampson made some people miss, did a great job,” Heupel said.
To even have a running game was a good thing on Thursday. The Vols didn’t perform as well on the offensive line during Saturday’s scrimmage. That was the first in which center Cooper Mays was sidelined. Mays was also held out on Thursday but is expected to return next week for the Vols’ final week of spring practice.
“They did a good job on the first and second level and created some space,” Heupel said of UT’s offensive linemen. “All of those pieces play-off of each other, the offensive line..the tight ends did a really good job on some of the second level things that they were asked to do and the running backs ran with good pad level.”
The Vols have also had another contributor at tailback alongside Sampson and Tennessee’s proven tailback duo: Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. Those aforementioned running backs know what it’s like to play in college after doing so last year. DeSean Bishop, however, doesn’t have that experience. He was suiting up for Karns High School in Knoxville, Tenn., just a few months ago. Now, he’s a Vol after committing to Tennessee football in December.
“He’s handled the transitioning into college football extremely well, but we thought he was extremely athletic,” Heupel said. “I thought he had great vision. He’s done a really good job of handling the communication system and not being too big for him since day one. Proud of what he’s done.”
The Vols seemed deep last season at tailback thanks, in part, to staying healthy. So far, they’re just getting deeper and, with Sampson’s speed, quickness and skill level, more explosive as well.
In order to do so, the Vols even moved Cam Seldon from receiver to running back. So far, the reviews have been strong.
“I just thought today, the last couple practices have been really solid for him. He’s ran with good pad level, he’s a guy that is transitioning from playing a lot out in space to a guy that is at the running back position full time. He’s continuing to grow in his understanding of how to press the line of scrimmage and understanding how things are going to be blocked versus different fronts. Took good care of the football today. He got pad under pad, he finished plus two. A lot of positives.”
The same could be said for Tennessee’s entire roster of running backs.