HOOVER, Ala. -- Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd made his presence felt against Georgia a season ago.
The now-sophomore broke through tackles and cut through open holes to run for 119 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, making that game one of his best of the season. His consistent output was what was most impressive, with Hurd averaging five yards per carry with a long of only 19. The Bulldogs were able to win that game 35-32, with Hurd made things difficult for the Georgia defense.
However, Hurd ran behind an inexperienced offensive line in 2014, which contributed to some inconsistent games. His year finished on a high-note with a 122-yard, two-touchdown performance against Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones said Hurd, at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, said he has high expectations for Hurd in his second season.
"He's been as determined and focused and as determined a young man as we have in our program right now," Jones said.
Hurd, who finished his freshman campaign with 899 yards and five scores, won't have to shoulder the load by himself, much like he had to at times in 2014. For the first time in Jones's tenure at Tennessee, the offensive line's first and second groups are comprised of all scholarship players. Tennessee will also have transfer running back Alvin Kamara at its disposal, who came to the program from Hutchinson Community College (Kan.) via Alabama.
The Volunteers have been a trendy sleeper pick this offseason and the potential of its running game is a major reason why.
"Now it's just them gelling together as a unit," Jones said. "I also think having a healthy Jalen Hurd an an Alvin Kamara and [quarterback] Joshua Dobbs is going to help [the offensive line] as well. So I think, again, it's a team. It's a unit thing. But I think their hunger, I think they want to prove to everyone from last year. ... I've liked their mentality. I've liked their work ethic. And they're very driven right now."