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Tennessee’s chances of landing an elite RB for Vols

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There are mandated prospects, preferred prospects and luxury recruits that can help Tennessee to a national championship. Clearly, running back is a luxury the Vols haven’t required just yet.

Tennessee has been good and, at times, very good at running back under head coach Josh Heupel, who is entering his fourth season as a Vol. Former Vol Jabari Small was solid in 2022. Former Vol Jaylen Wright was even better last year. So the Vols have been good at running back. Can they be great?

That depends on recruiting.

Let’s start with the Vols’ stable of current tailbacks, led by junior Dylan Sampson, who has certainly proven he can play in the SEC despite being considered a three-star prospect when he signed with the Vols. However, there are more stars alongside him and more to come.

Tennessee tailbacks Peyton Lewis and Cameron Seldon were both ranked as four-star prospects when they signed with the Vols. Does that mean Tennessee’s new, underclassmen tailbacks could extend runs beyond what the blocking dictates? That would be a welcome change.

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The Vols have certainly broken long runs after forcing missed tackles over the years. However, no one would claim that the Vols have had a true superstar at tailback since, perhaps, Alvin Kamara in 2016. So what do the Vols have coming in via high school recruiting? Not much so far.

The Vols have a commitment from three-star tailback Justin Baker from Buford (Ga.) High School, but is he truly a gamebreaker?

With Tennessee’s offense under Josh Heupel, the Vols will always take an elite quarterback or receiver over an elite running back, but they’d love all three. 

The transfer portal certainly changes things. Heupel may prefer to see a tailback against college competition before he extends a scholarship offers. Still, identifying a top-flight tailback out of high school is a skill that would benefit Heupel, or any coach, well.

If the Vols can land a highly rated tailback, there is one candidate that seems to leading in the polls…

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