KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jalen Hurd came to Tennessee in the 2014 signing class with much anticipation from many to see him on Saturdays dawning the orange and white.
The Hendersonville, Tenn., native stayed home to play college football and he has not disappointed.
Hurd needs only 892 rushing yards to become Tennessee’s all-time rushing leader, breaking Travis Henry’s career record of 3,078 yards.
Butch Jones’ second year, Hurd’s freshman season, was yet another step in the rebuilding process. But 2014 also gave Hurd the opportunity to play right away and gain valuable SEC experience. He took advantage and rushed for 899 yards and scored five touchdowns.
Jones added another weapon last season, bringing in former Alabama running back – turned JUCO transfer – Alvin Kamara to complement Hurd in the running game.
Hurd liked the addition immediately. Not long after, Run CMG — the Vols’ Chain Moving Gang — was born.
“Alvin is a great guy and I’m happy that he’s right next to me running the ball and sometimes, I’m happy he’s coming in and getting me out,” Hurd said during fall camp. “He’s a great leader and we love having him on our team.”
Hurd’s production increased with Kamara’s presence in the backfield, rushing for 1,285 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns in 2015. Kamara’s versatility added 698 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on top of 291 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
The two running backs go hand-in-hand, and in 2016, both look to play a big part in a SEC East championship run.
“The running game works hand-in-hand,” Kamara told Saturday Down South. “When we’re able to run the ball successfully, it will open things in the passing game for (Josh) Dobbs and the receivers Josh Smith, (Josh) Malone, and guys like Preston Williams.
“It works the other way around too, when Dobbs is hot and able to throw the ball around the field, it puts the defense on their heels and allows us to run the ball and get some big holes.”
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie also likes what he sees in Hurd and Kamara going into year two together.
“If we can get Alvin and Jalen in the game at the same time, and have those guys in the backfield, lineup in empty, and have your quarterback who can also run the ball, I think it’s a nightmare for the defensive guys,” Gillespie told Saturday Down South.
“Coach (Bob) Shoop has came to me and said ‘wow’ – those are the things that have him waking up in the middle of the night.”
Versatility is another area that the running back tandem can continue to get better and feed off of each other.
“To have a guy like Alvin that can do multiple things, also Jalen who can surprise you in what he can do in spaces and on the perimeter, that’s definitely a weapon we want to take advantage of with in year two having both of those guys together” Gillespie said.
Being explosive and adding new wrinkles into their already productive run game is what can set the Tennessee offense apart in 2016.
Tennessee ran for 2,908 yards last season, third in the SEC and just shy of the program-record 3,068 set in 1951. That’s a target for 2016.
“I think it will be explosive,” Kamara said. “We have a lot of new things going in. We have some veteran guys upfront on the offensive line, they’re doing a great job this camp.”
Hurd also realizes how explosive the Vols’ offense can be this fall. That’s why the 6-foot-4, 240-pound back worked on his explosiveness and agility this summer.
“Opening my stride up a little more and flexibility was a big key,” Hurd said of his summer conditioning. “I did a lot of different training with more core balance. It wasn’t a lot of weights. We did a lot of bands and a lot of using your own body weight to create more explosion and speed.”
More explosion. More speed. Indeed, Run CMG is gearing up for an encore.