The commitment of 4-star running back Derrell Scott to Tennessee on Monday gave coach Butch Jones one of his most important pieces in the Volunteers' 2014 recruiting class.
Not only is UT getting a versatile, all-purpose back who looks SEC-ready, but it's also getting a player who can—and likely will—have every opportunity to play immediately on what is going to be an incredibly young rendition of the Vols next season.
Scott noted in this GoVols247 story (subscription required) that playing time was important to him in his final decision, and Jones' selling the 5'11", 180-pound running back on that potential wasn't just lip service.
The Vols have just one running back—rising senior Marlin Lane—on their roster who has proven to be an SEC-caliber runner. Throw in the fact that Lane has just a year left of eligibility and UT is expected to have limited spots in its 2015 recruiting class, and Scott's verbal pledge is even more vital to the Vols.
When asked by reporters about the potential to earn quick playing time in the story linked above, Scott said:
I mean, that was a pretty good bit of the reason why I went there—not the whole reason, but that was a good reason why. I mean, I knew I could get a chance to be on the field and get an opportunity to play, and the coaches told me that I would get an opportunity, so I’m just going to go in there and work hard and see what happens.
Though Scott is the third running back Jones has committed in this year's class, he'll have plenty of opportunities to earn meaningful carries.
Tennessee recently lost senior starter Rajion Neal and his 1,000-plus yards to a hopeful NFL career. Lane couldn't get through last offseason without getting in the coaches' doghouse, so there are no guarantees his status will remain secure until next year.
Hurd had surgery on his shoulder after injuring it in the season's first game. Though he enrolled early and is expected to be able to go for spring practice, there are no guarantees he will be fully recovered.
As for Paulk, he had surgery on Oct. 9 to repair his knee injury. While he told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that he is "definitely ahead of pace" on the road to recovery and plans "to be ready" to play in 2014, a serious knee injury is a red flag when it comes to immediate availability.
So, there are a ton of question marks surrounding the Vols' backfield. Getting a player of Scott's caliber and versatility is a major answer for UT's depth chart.
At the very least, Scott gives Tennessee a player who adds a different dimension in the way of explosiveness, change of direction, footwork and ability to catch the football out of the backfield.
Nobody on UT besides Devrin Young—who could slide back to running back from slot receiver where he played last year—can combine all of the attributes Scott has that make him an ideal third-down back right away while he carves a bigger role.
He also has big playmaking ability.
Scott is a great player, as evidenced by him being a priority for South Carolina and Steve Spurrier throughout the recruiting process. Florida made a late push at him as well once Dalvin Cook flipped to Florida State. Ultimately, the Vols won him over with a solid recruiting push by Jones and running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
Their reward is a player who really stands out in an already loaded recruiting class and a crucial part of the Vols' backfield plans for the present and future.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.