An improbable leading rusher emerged last Saturday during the Tennessee’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Former Alcoa running back and state record holder JaRon Toney got plenty of work and made the most of it, pacing the Vols with 83 yards rushing on the afternoon. A redshirt freshman, Toney carried 10 times, averaging 8.3 yards per carry, and reached the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run.
Toney’s big afternoon included the longest rush of the scrimmage, accumulating 28 yards on the play. Tennessee starter and returning 1,000-yard rusher Tauren Poole amassed 28 yards on his seven carries and highly-touted, four-star true freshman Marlin Lane gained 49 yards on 13 carries.
“I think the coaches felt pretty good about how I played on Saturday,” Toney said. “I got to show more than I did in the last scrimmage.”
Rajion Neal, who was the team’s second leading rusher last year, and freshman Tom Smith, who gained 80 yards in the previous week’s scrimmage, both sat out the practice, allowing Toney more opportunities to show what he can do. Toney, the Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year at Alcoa two years ago, made the most of his extra opportunities.
“I look at it as every time I get in, it’s an opportunity to show what I can do and every time I go out, I have to do what I can to be noticed,” Toney said.
This season, Toney may not be looked at as a primary ball carrier, but he is looking toward special teams as a way for him to contribute early, covering kicks and being used as part of the return units.
“I feel that (special teams) is the best way for me to get on the field,” he said. “If you’re not part of the eleven starters on offense and defense, then you’ve got to show yourself somewhere else. I figure that’s a good way to get some looks.
“It’s up to the coaches to put me out there, but I’m pretty sure I will be on the coverage units this year.”
Toney rushed for a state-record 50 touchdowns in leading the Tornadoes to the Class 3A state crown in 2009, earning selection as a finalist for Mr. Football in the process. The championship was Alcoa’s record sixth consecutive, with the Tornadoes making it a record seven in a row just last season.