Rajion Neal

Tennessee’s second leading rusher “50/50” for Georgia

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Tennessee could be facing a bit of a running back depth issue this weekend as the Vols take on SEC East heavyweight Georgia. Head coach Butch Jones says back-up running back Marlin Lane is 50/50 to play this weekend, according to Wes Rucker,  beat reporter for GoVols247.

Lane is the team’s second-leading rusher on the roster with 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He had to leave last weekend’s win over South Alabama with an undisclosed lower body injury. He was initially reported to be day-to-day, and that does not seem to have changed for the Vols. Starter Rajion Neal is still slated to start for the Vols, despite also having some questions about his health this week. Neal did not practice on Tuesday but it sounds as though Jones is not nearly as concerned about his status heading in to this weekend’s game.

Butch Jones: RB Lane ‘absolutely on the path’ to return to team

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New Tennessee coach Butch Jones said earlier this month that running back Marlin Lane was out indefinitely for what was tabbed as disciplinary reasons. The news came a week or so after Lane began missing practice for a family illness.

Speaking on the SEC coaches’ teleconference Tuesday, Jones said Lane  was “absolutely on the path” to meeting the criteria to return to the team.

We’re just taking it one day at a time with Marlin,” Jones said. “He knows what he has to do to be reinstated at this time.”

As a sophomore in 2012, Lane was the team’s second-leading rusher with 658 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Heading into the 2013 season, Lane, along with senior-to-be Rajion Neal, was expected to compete for the starting job at running back.

Vols RB out indefinitely for ‘disciplinary reasons’

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The absence of Tennessee running back Marlin Lane has had its own evolution this spring.

Lane was originally said to be dealing with a family illness when he missed practice last week. When Lane was again absent from practice on Thursday, assistants deferred questions about his status to head coach Butch Jones. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Jones said Lane’s absence was due to disciplinary reasons.

Jones did not elaborate and a timetable for Lane’s return has not been set.

As a sophomore in 2012, Lane was the team’s second-leading rusher with 658 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Heading into the 2013 season, Lane, along with senior-to-be Rajion Neal, was expected to compete for the starting job at running back.

Vols’ leading rusher ‘could definitely play’

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Even as it may be too late to save his head coach’s job, buyout or not, Tennessee could see the return of its top running back for this weekend’s non-conference matchup.

Rajion Neal led the SEC in rushing yards through the first five games of the season, but suffered an ankle injury in the Oct. 13 loss to Mississippi State. That injury cost Neal the next two games as the Vols’ running game ground to a near halt; Neal had rushed for 500 yards in five-plus games, while UT could manage just 170 total in losses to Alabama and South Carolina without him.

This Saturday against Troy, though, Neal could be back.  Even as Neal’s not 100-percent healthy, Derek Dooley said Tuesday the back “could definitely play.”

For his part, Neal is optimistic.  And champing at the bit to get on the field with his teammates.

“It’s really hard to put in words how hard it is to sit over there on the sideline in your uniform knowing that you can’t really go out there and help your team,” Neal said according to the Chattanooga Times Free-Press. “That’s a big challenge, and I didn’t know it was going to be that hard. It’s a terrible feeling, a real terrible feeling, especially when you see how close these guys are getting and how they’re out there fighting.”

Vols’ leading rusher doubtful against top-ranked Alabama

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As if the college football world needed any further proof that Derek Dooley couldn’t catch a break if it fell into his lap — which may not be a good idea because of recent hip surgery —  the Tennessee coach said Monday during his press conference that leading rusher Rajion Neal is doubtful for this Saturday’s game against Alabama.

Neal suffered an ankle injury in last weekend’s loss to Mississippi State. Backup Marlin Lane, slowed with his own thigh injury, should be good to go along with Devrin Young.

Neal has 500 yards on the season and five touchdowns along with a pair of receiving touchdowns.

Additionally, quarterback Tyler Bray sat out Monday’s practice recovering from a knee injury, but he should be fine to play against the top-ranked Tide as well.