Friday, October 31, 2014 · 5:50 a.m.
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Tennessee freshman running back Jalen Hurd, pictured at Beech High School. (Photo: fotofill.net)

Running back

Returning: SR Rajion Neal; JR Marlin Lane; RS FR Alden Hill; RS SO Tom Smith

Incoming: Jabo Lee (3-star)

Current 2014 commitments:

Jalen Hurd (6-3/230/Hendersonville, Tenn./5-star): The crown jewel of Jones’ 2014 class thus far, Hurd helped UT fill a major need in this recruiting class when he surprised many with an early commitment in March. He’s got the look of a prospect who could, at worst, split carries with another back and, at best, be an impact freshman in the mold of Georgia’s Todd Gurley from 2012.

• Treyvon Paulk (5-9/200/Alpharetta, Ga./3-star): Paulk, who boasts 20 offers himself, showed little fear of competition when he pulled the trigger on a commitment just one day after Hurd. Though not as big as Hurd, Paulk is a strong and shifty back who should have plenty of early opportunities as well.

Level of need: High. Neal is gone after 2013 and Lane’s status has been in question since the second half of spring practice when coach Butch Jones said he was away from the team and had to earn his way back. It appears Lane will be on the roster in the fall, but that’s not a given at this point.

Hill showed promise this spring, but has yet to take a carry in a real game after redshirting last year. Smith has been used sparingly in his two seasons in Knoxville and didn’t do much to move up the depth chart this spring. Further complicating the situation is the academic status of Lee, the lone running back signee from 2013. He’s still not cleared to make it in this fall and there’s some degree of doubt as to if he will be in Knoxville in 2013 at all.

The Vols are off to a great start with Hurd and Paulk. They’ll need to hang on to both and potentially add one or two more to rebuild a position that has grown thin on depth.

Top Uncommitted Targets:

Nick Chubb (5-11/215/Cedartown, Ga./4-star): Landing Chubb to go along with the backs already committed would be an impressive, though somewhat unlikely, haul for Jones. The Vols are trying, though. Georgia appears to be the leader at this point, but he’s a candidate to make an official visit to Knoxville next fall.

Akeem Judd (6-0/220/Georgia Military College/3-star): Adding a junior college transfer such as Judd makes sense at this position. That would give UT a chance for more instant help in 2014 and would spread out the years of eligibility left for the incoming prospects. Ole Miss and Auburn are UT’s top competitors at this point.

• Derrell Scott (5-11/180/Havelock, NC/4-star): A smaller and quicker back, Scott could be a natural complimentary back for somebody like Hurd. He likes UT, but South Carolina leads the way right now.

Others to keep an eye on:

• Caleb Kinlaw (5-10/190/Goose Creek, SC/3-star): Likes Tennessee along with most of the major schools in the Carolinas. He visited Knoxville in April.

Josh Boyd (5-10/180/Snellville, GA/3-star): Georgia speedster who is interested in the Vols, but doesn’t have an offer yet.  

Sedrick Palmer (5-10/205/McDonough, Ga./3-star): Another Peach State runner with UT interest and no offer.

D’Andre Ferby (6-1/220/Nashville, Tenn./3-star): A big back from Ensworth, a powerful program in Nashville. He should get more opportunities next year with Miami signee Corn Elder out of the program.

Shawn Prevo (5-11/180/Maryville, Tenn./3-star): The Knoxville-area product has put up big numbers at Maryville High School. His size is a concern, but he could earn some offers with a strong senior season.

*All rankings are from the 247Sports Composite.

Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga

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