Entering the Orange and White Game, the position for starting running back was a battle between sophomore Marlin Lane and junior Raijon Neal. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and it was a close battle all throughout spring.
After today, Lane came out as the clear winner.
The game started out with a nice opening drive capped off with a pass to Lane for the first touchdown. He kept on rolling from there.
After that, he rushed for 39 yards for another touchdown to put the Orange up 14-7 right before the half. At halftime, he had seven carries for 104 yards and a touchdown with one 16-yard reception and a 43-yard kickoff return.
That was another area (kickoff) that he excelled in. Tennessee looks like they have a very nice pair of returners with both Lane and Devrin Young, another standout this afternoon. In fact, Young looked like he could be another important cog in this running machine.
Lane didn't have many touches afterwards, as it is custom to let the other guys get some play time. But have no doubt, he did make his presence felt.
The final stat line for him was nine carries, 106 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving, one running) with three kick returns for 93 yards. He finished the day with 226 all-purpose yards.
But just stats doesn't give you the starting job.
Instead, Lane showed us some of his shake-and-bake skills for extra measure. He displayed the ability to make guys miss and to power through them too, which was what running back coach Jay Graham wanted to see. His ability to find the holes was also a welcome change.
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He may not be the fastest guy, but he eliminated all doubts that he couldn't be a powerful back. Lane really did shine in all areas today, with little mistakes.
If you had to make one criticism, it would probably be his fumble on a punt, which is another thing Graham wanted to work on. Other than that, it is all nit-picking. Lane was clearly a huge reason why his team won today.
This isn't to say that the other guys don't have a chance. In fact, Neal, Young and others had good games today. It's just that Lane had a better one.
If spring practice is to be believed and everything stays in order, I would expect Lane to come out as the starting running back for the Vols.