KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) In an era when more and more teams are relying on multiple running backs to split carries, Tennessee has become a reluctant exception.
Freshman Jalen Hurd has gained more than two-thirds of Tennessee's yards rushing this season. The only other player in the Southeastern Conference responsible for more than 53.5 percent of his team's rushing output is Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb, who has over three-quarters of the Commodores' yards rushing. Vanderbilt and Tennessee (2-3) also happen to have the SEC's two lowest-ranked rushing attacks.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones says it's critical that Hurd gets more help as the season wears on.
''In this conference you can't have one running back. ... You need to have three, you need to have four,'' Jones said.
Tennessee's game Saturday with Football Championship Subdivision program Chattanooga (3-2) could represent an opportunity for the Vols' other running backs to show they merit more carries.
A shoulder injury has caused Hurd to practice this week in a green jersey given to players who should have limited contact, though Jones and running backs coach Robert Gillespie have said they expect him to play Saturday. Marlin Lane, the Vols' second-leading rusher, has an ankle injury that makes his status for Saturday's game less certain.
That could lead to more playing time for other running backs, such as freshman Derrell Scott.
Scott has earned praise from Tennessee's coaches since returning from a foot injury early this season, but he still hasn't played in a game. Coaches have indicated Scott could get an opportunity this week.
''He is very quick,'' Jones said. ''He is very elusive. He is a downhill runner, very, very quick with the ball in his hands. (He) makes quick decisions, can make you miss and has good burst and acceleration.''
The Vols need all the help they can get as they attempt to boost an offense that ranks last in the SEC in yards rushing per game (107.0) and yards per carry (3.0). The fact that Tennessee has given up a league-high 18 sacks has contributed to the low rushing average, but the Vols also haven't gotten much production from any running backs other than Hurd.
Hurd has rushed for 367 yards on 82 carries. He's responsible for 68.6 percent of Tennessee's 535 yards rushing as a team. For comparison's sake, Arkansas has the SEC's top-ranked ground attack and doesn't have one individual gaining as much as 40 percent of its rushing output.
The Vols' top returning rusher this season was Lane, who entered his senior year with 1,472 career yards rushing and an average of 5 yards per carry. But he's gained just 160 yards and has averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt this season. Hurd has 82 carries and Lane has 49 this season. No other Tennessee running back has more than five.
Jones said Lane has been dealing with nagging injuries and praised the senior's leadership abilities. Gillespie said Lane could improve his pass protection and his decision-making ability while carrying the ball, but he added that the same could be said for all of Tennessee's running backs.
''Obviously he holds himself to a high standard,'' Gillespie said. ''He knows he has to play better, and he wants to play better.''
Tennessee won't be the only team entering Neyland Stadium on Saturday with uncertainty at the running back position. Chattanooga's Keon Williams, who has rushed for a team-high 314 yards, won't play against the Vols due to a hand injury that required surgery. Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman said Williams could return for the Mocs' Oct. 18 game at The Citadel.