That didn't end up being the case, however, as the 5’10", 205-pound back totaled just 693 yards on 187 carries in 2011.
Poole's draft stock took an obvious hit due to the decline in numbers from his promising junior season (1,034 yards, 11 TDs), but much of it was out of his control. Poole was the only starting senior on the offensive side of the ball in 2011, and the Vols’ entire offense was in shambles much of the season.
Poole was recruited by longtime Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer and his staff. But Fulmer was fired after the 2008 season, creating a serious instability within the program and resulting in a coaching carousel throughout Poole's time in Knoxville.
Just after his senior season, Poole reflected on his time at Tennessee on The Drive, a radio program on WNOX-FM. Andrew Gribble of GoVolsXtra.com highlighted the interview here.
All that said, there's a lot to like with this prospect, especially in the facets of the game that can't be measured.
A true leader on the field and a team captain at Tennessee, Poole recently took home the Pat Tillman Award after his performance at the 2012 East-West Shrine Game. This award is presented to the player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service.
While most scouts will say he’s a well-rounded prospect with nothing that especially stands out, Poole’s underrated vision and patience started to get its due leading up to the draft—just not nearly enough.
Here's a chunk of ESPN's scouting report on Poole:
Underrated natural instincts as a runner. The more we study him the more impressed we are with his vision and feel. Has a good sense for penetration and knows when to change directions in the backfield. Feels the cutback lane opening and shows consistent ability to exploit it. Is patient and will let his blocks develop, but he's also a decisive runner that always seems to be working to get north.
The negatives on Poole would be that he needs to improve his blocking skills and learn how to secure the ball better, and that he lacks the ideal speed to become a home-run threat.
He also has small hands and isn't regarded as much of a receiving threat out of the backfield. However, Poole did total 43 receptions during his two seasons as a starter for the Volunteers, so he definitely has the potential to overcome these concerns.
If Poole can crack the Panthers' 53-man roster, you'll likely see the running back fill a depth role in his rookie season along with some special teams work. However, he's a tireless worker, and there's no doubt he'll be prepared if he is thrust into a featured role for his team early on.
Poole will need some time to refine his game at the next level, but he's an underrated running back that was hidden by an atrocious Tennessee offense, and he does have the potential to become an effective every-down back in the NFL.
Note: The National Football Post put together a piece last October regarding the five most underrated prospects entering the 2012 NFL draft, and NFP's Wes Bunting gave Poole the No. 1 spot.
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