Jalen Hurd's Strong Start to Spring Is a Good Sign for Tennessee

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 20, 2014

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Second-year coaches have enjoyed tremendous success in the SEC over the last decade.

Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik each won national titles in their second seasons at Florida and Auburn, respectively; and current Alabama head coach Nick Saban took the Crimson Tide into the SEC Championship Game with an unblemished record in his second season in 2008. 

Could Tennessee head coach Butch Jones follow in their footsteps?

If he does, it'll likely be due to a dynamic offense. True freshman early enrollee running back Jalen Hurd will likely be one of the ingredients in that recipe for success.

Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd in at Beech High School
Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd in at Beech High SchoolMark Humphrey/Associated Press

In his first week of spring practice, he's already turning the heads of his teammates.

"He's been very consistent," quarterback Joshua Dobbs said last week, per Jason Yellin of UTSports.com. "Not only him, but all of the early enrollees have done a great job just getting acclimated to a college practice. They've done a great job for us and making plays."

Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd in high school
Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd in high schoolMark Humphrey/Associated Press

The 5-star prospect in the class of 2014 skipped his entire senior season at Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., after suffering a shoulder injury but appears to be fully recovered now that he's at Rocky Top.

"He hasn't played football in a year with recovering from the surgery so each day of practice I see him getting better and better," head coach Butch Jones said last week, according to UTSports.com"I see the improvement coming but I also see the confidence getting in him as well."

We hit on how Hurd fits into the offense last month prior to spring practice, and the fact that he turned heads in his first week of practice is definitely a good start. The 6'3", 221-pounder hasn't played much football since his injury last August, but he appears to have picked up right where he left off.

Just where did he leave off?

In his final season at Beech, Hurd rushed for 3,357 yards and 43 touchdowns as a junior in 2012. 

Video-game numbers like that are unrealistic for any college running back, especially a true freshman coming off of an injury. But if he can translate his strong start in spring to the fall, Tennessee's offense could be downright frightening.

Coupled with 5'11", 210-pound senior running back Marlin Lane—who's likely going to have the starting job going into the season—the Vols could boast quite the "thunder and lighting" backfield, especially if Hurd picks up on the blocking schemes, which is generally the last piece of the puzzle for freshmen running backs.

The fact that his shoulder injury hasn't hurt him during the early parts of spring camp says that contact isn't an issue, and that certainly bodes well for the future.

Tennessee has no returning starters on the offensive line and a quarterback battle that is about as muddled as a swamp after a downpour. A dynamic and versatile running game would be a nice insurance policy for Jones in his second year on Rocky Top and provide a solid foundation as he continues to build the offense.


* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information and high school statistics are courtesy of 247Sports.com and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.