When 5-star running back Jalen Hurd enrolled at Tennessee in January, he already had the weight of Vol Nation on his shoulders.
The 6'3", 221-pounder from Hendersonville, Tenn., missed nearly all of his senior season at Beech High School with a shoulder injury, but he was still expected to hit the ground running in spring practice.
Hurd capped off a stellar spring with 66 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards and one touchdown in Tennessee's spring game, according to stats released by Tennessee. It laid a solid foundation for Hurd, whose top priority now is getting into game shape.
"Jalen continues to progress," head coach Butch Jones said in quotes released following the spring game. "I thought he had some hard earned yards today. I thought he dropped his pad level, but again, him understanding too that football rewards those who are in great shape. Our running backs have to be able to carry the ball three, four, five, six, seven times in a row."
He already was slated to be a contributor for this offense. Now that's more of a necessity because one of his mates in the backfield is moving on.
Alden Hill, a 6'2", 221-pound rising sophomore from Alliance, Ohio announced on Instagram Tuesday evening that he is transferring from the Vols' football program.
"As of today I am I'm sad to say I am no longer a Tennessee Vol," Hill wrote in the post. "I have decided to move on for my best interest and find a new home. I have loved Tennessee and the entire Big Orange family. I thank the coaches and the fans for my time here and will always remember my time spent at Tennessee, my first true love."
Hill only had 10 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown last year, but he rushed for 101 yards in last season's spring game, according to Brendan F. Quinn and Evan Woodbery of GoVolsXtra.com.
Buried on the depth chart, Hill wasn't going to see much playing time in 2014 as a feature back. But his size and experience could have earned him some short-yardage and goal-line carries.
It appears that Hurd's strong spring earned him that responsibility right out of the gate, which means he'll hit the ground running as a big part of Tennessee's offense when toe meets leather on Aug. 31 versus Utah State.
Will Jalen Hurd rush for more that 700 yards in 2014?
It's just the beginning, though.
Once Hurd picks up the protection schemes, which is typically the last piece of the puzzle for any freshman running back, he has everything it takes to overtake Marlin Lane atop the Vols depth chart at running back and become a superstar in the SEC.
He has the power, vision and speed to be a star. Now the backfield isn't as crowded as it was during spring practice, which means the door is open even further for Hurd to become a star sooner rather than later.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.