January 24, 2021

Rocky Topics: What will Jalen Hurd’s legacy be?

On this week’s Rocky Topics, Seth Raborn and David Bradford debate Jalen Hurd’s chances of becoming Tennessee’s greatest running back and what his legacy will be.

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01, 2016 running back Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the Outback Bowl between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Northwestern Wildcats at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Photo By Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

In this week’s Rocky Topics, Seth Raborn and David Bradford argue what Jalen Hurd’s legacy will be when it is all said and done.

Raborn: It is hard to rank Jalen Hurd on the best running backs in Tennessee history. Considering the fact that the Vols have had great backs like Travis Henry, Arian Foster, Jamal Lewis, Cedric Houston and James Stewart, it becomes more challenging to rank Hurd among them. Hurd currently being ranked eighth in all-time school rushing yards is the most concerning stat. Obviously, he still has his senior year, unless he were to declare for the NFL Draft. For the time being, it is hard to argue Hurd’s place in history when several Tennessee backs have also had good NFL careers. Hurd has yet to finish his junior season on Rocky Top, which makes it difficult to give him a definitive place among other Tennessee greats. Realistically, if Hurd finishes this season and his senior season (if he stays) the way he has the past two years, he will finish in the top three in rushing yards in Tennessee history. However, with Hurd often splitting carries with Alvin Kamara and the possibility of him leaving after this year, it is safe to assume that it could be a tight finish for most rushing yards in Tennessee history.

Bradford: Hurd’s place as the Vols’ all-time greatest running back is more dependent on how this season plays out, rather than his career rushing yards. There’s little doubt that by the end of the season, Hurd will be the most prolific back in program history. But, what Hurd really needs is a signature moment. A moment that cements his career at Tennessee as unforgettable. He can rush for all the yards he wants, but if the Vols fall short of expectations, then his legacy won’t be as the all-time leading rusher in Tennessee history. It’ll be that he was a big part of a team that couldn’t live up to expectations. The Vols will live up to expectations and as a result, Hurd will be recognized as the program’s top running back.

Raborn:  Jalen Hurd is arguably the best running back the Vols have had in the past decade. He also has a great chance of topping the leader boards when his career is over. I find it hard to believe that Hurd will be able to top Travis Henry or Jamal Lewis as the best running back to ever play for Tennessee. Henry and Lewis shared carries the majority of their careers and they’re still two of the greatest running backs in Tennessee history. If they had been the sole workhorse of a team, it’s hard to deny that they would’ve had even more impressive career statistics. Jamal Lewis didn’t share carries his freshman season and he ran for over 1,350 yards. In his two seasons sharing carries, he combined for just over 1,300 yards. In those two seasons, he shared carries with Henry, who rushed for a combined 1,750-plus yards. In his senior season, though, Henry didn’t share the work load and he rushed for over over 1,300 yards. Some may say that Hurd and Kamara splitting carries is comparable to Henry and Lewis, but the split of carries heavily favors Hurd in this instance. If the stats continue to trend the way they do, I think Jalen Hurd will finish as the third best running back in Tennessee history.

Bradford: The statistical argument is fair and Hurd is definitely not one of the nation’s top rushing threats. But, every year, college football becomes more competitive and physical. Thriving in this era is more impressive than thriving in the late 1990’s simply because players are more athletic and defensive schemes are more complex. Again, it’s more than the statistics, it’s Hurd’s impact on the program’s success. If he’s the workhorse that sends the Orange and White to the SEC Championship — and potentially beyond — then that carries much more weight than how many rushing yards he finishes with.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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