April 14, 2008

Like play, Creer developing

The old Lennon Creer, say maybe from a dozen spring football practices ago, most likely would not have scored a touchdown Saturday on the final play of Tennessee's third scrimmage.

Too much patience.

Too much reading the play.

Too much more than just gathering the handoff and trying to run around or over the defense.

But the Volunteers sophomore tailback darted right -- where even the sideline would have been an understandable outlet -- and simply waited. Blockers arrived, Creer cut back and twisted into the end zone. Touchdown.

More importantly, score one for improving along the course of spring camp.

"Lennon would have normally tried to cut that thing across the field or not let the play develop," first-year tailbacks coach Stan Drayton said. "And that was a step in the right direction for him. There was some growth in that play."

There also was some recognition on Creer's behalf, another indication the Tatum, Texas, native has moved toward becoming a complete tailback.

"I think it came with experience because I know our defense is real fast, and sometimes they over-pursue," said Creer, who closed the Orange and White prelude with 47 yards on 10 tries. "So you have to be patient sometimes."

Patience was the catchword for Tennessee tailbacks entering spring camp. The Vols listed six running backs on their spring depth chart but have since seen that number whittled in half. Montario Hardesty will have missed the last two weeks of camp with a broken bone when Saturday's Orange and White game (kickoff 2:30 p.m.) concludes UT's 15 spring practices. Daryl Vereen, a talented redshirt freshman from Charlotte, was moved to safety, and Josh Hawkins hasn't participated in drills because of injury.

A once-crowded backfield house now has coaches wanting to see more from Creer and rugged rookie Tauren Poole.

"When coach Drayton came in, he said we needed to be the best in the country, and we've been putting in a new offense, and we've been getting better and learning more every week," Creer said.

Even when Creer wasn't the focal point of a play -- perhaps most importantly when he didn't get a touch, Drayton was able to recognize the progression of the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder.

"Lennon has some explosives. He played on contact and he tried to drop his pads a couple of times," Drayton said. "There were a few situations down here on the goal line that I thought he could have found a way to score, and we'll work on that. It's a pad-level issue right now, but he's working on it. I don't remember seeing him have any mental breakdowns or anything like that, and that's huge for Lennon.

"Lennon was always good with the ball in his hands, but it's when we didn't have the ball in his hands that we really needed to improve that part of his game, and that's improving."

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