Alvin Kamara is better for Tennessee than Jalen Hurd

Jalen Hurd has been the workhorse back on Rocky Top since his freshman season in 2014. But coming off an undisclosed injury and after a historic performance by Alvin Kamara, is it time for Butch Jones to lean more on Kamara than Hurd?

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 14, 2015 - running back Alvin Kamara #6 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the Homecoming game between the North Texas Mean Green and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics

You and I both know why you clicked on this article, so I won’t waste any time getting to the point.

Alvin Kamara is simply better than Jalen Hurd.

I know that’s going to upset a lot of Vol fans, but after what the two have shown on the field, it’s impossible to deny any longer.

This isn’t to say that Jalen Hurd isn’t good — he most certainly is. My point is that Kamara is even better. And I can prove it.

Physical Traits

Hurd is monstrous in size. It’s unfair that a running back as athletic as Hurd stands at 6-foot-4 and around 240 lbs. However, what gets lost in the shuffle is that Kamara isn’t small, either.

Kamara stands at 5-foot-10 and weights about 215 lbs. Anyone who has seen him up close can tell you the man isn’t small.

Moving on from size and examining speed, agility and acceleration, Kamara begins to distance himself from Hurd.

It isn’t just that Kamara is faster and quicker than Hurd, it’s that he’s significantly faster and quicker.

Take this play against Bowling Green last season. After the handoff, two defenders (No. 29 and 36) each have a chance to tackle Kamara. They each have an angle, but it didn’t matter — Kamara’s speed allowed him to breeze by them and eventually score a touchdown on the play.

If that had been Hurd on the run, the play likely would have resulted in just a two-to-four yard gain. But, with Kamara’s speed, that play went from a modest gain to a 56-yard touchdown. That’s the difference his quickness and flat-out speed makes when he’s given the football.

Kamara has also shown that he is, on average, better than Hurd at maximizing potential yardage on a play.

Somehow, holes appear bigger and last longer when Kamara is in the game. Plus, he can hit those holes at full speed almost instantly. Is it because he simply has better vision than Hurd? The answer may differ depending on who you’re asking, but what’s certain is Kamara does more with the ball than Hurd.

Production

Speaking of what he does when given the opportunity, Kamara has consistently stepped up and produced when the offense calls his number.

So far this season, Hurd has rushed the ball 101 times and caught the ball seven times. He has accumulated 407 yards rushing and 82 yards receiving.

In comparison, Kamara has rushed the ball 56 times and caught a pass 20 times. He has racked up 292 yards rushing and 253 yards receiving in those touches.

This means that on the season, Hurd is averaging 4.53 yards per offensive touch, while Kamara is averaging 7.17 yards per offensive touch. Which means that, on average, Kamara gets over two-and-a-half more yards per offensive touch than Hurd does.

Another stat to keep in mind — Kamara is much more effective at providing big plays for the offense. Of Hurd’s 108 touches, 26 of them have gone for either a touchdown or a first down. On the other hand, 28 of Kamara’s 76 touches have gone for either a touchdown or a first down.

So, on the season, Hurd has picked up a first down or a touchdown on roughly 24 percent of his touches. Kamara, though, has picked up a first down or a touchdown on about 37 percent of his touches.

Oh, and I couldn’t talk about production without mentioning Kamara’s explosive performance against Texas A&M. Last Saturday, he led the Vols in rushing (127 yards) and receiving (168 yards). He didn’t accomplish that against a cupcake opponent—it was on the road, against a top-10 team.

Kamara became the first Power Five conference player in the last 20 years to have 125 yards or more rushing and 150 yards or more receiving in the same game.

Fair to say he’s pretty good with the ball in his hands.

Offensive Fit

Last but not least, let’s briefly discuss how each of them fit into the Tennessee offense.

Since arriving in Knoxville as a freshman in 2014, Hurd has been the primary running back for the Vols. This hasn’t been without merit – he has undoubtedly been productive and effective in his time toting the rock on Rocky Top.

However, he simply doesn’t fit the offense as it currently operates as well as Kamara does.

With a stable of supremely talented tailbacks and a quarterback who is also dynamic on the ground, it’s understandable why Tennessee relies heavily on its running game.

Because of Dobbs’ ability to run, read-option looks are common for the Vols.

However, when Hurd is in the game, defenses know that he isn’t a major threat to run outside the tackle box or improvise a broken play into a big gain. For this reason, defenses can stack the box more compactly to the ball when defending Hurd.

When Kamara is in, they cannot afford the same luxury. Kamara is a legitimate threat to break any given play off for a touchdown. He uses his speed and quickness to outrun and elude defenders. He’s also very adept at improvising when a play is busted.

Lastly, Kamara is a more dangerous option in the passing game. Yes, Hurd isn’t a bad receiver. In fact, he has solid hands, but the speed and explosiveness of Kamara make him much more effective in the air.

These factors cause the defense to be truly honest. They must respect the entire field and not play too closely in one particular area. This, in turn, opens up opportunities for both the rushing and passing game.

Conclusion

I know a lot of Tennessee fans are probably going to think I’m crazy for thinking this, but it’s true.

Is Jalen Hurd a bad running back? Of course not. Should he be completely phased out of the offense? Absolutely not.

Hurd is one of the best running backs in the SEC.

However, Kamara is simply a better option. When given the opportunity, he’s one of the best running backs in the entire country, not just the SEC.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Andrew Bruckse, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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Adam is the Assistant Sports Editor for the Tennessee Journalist and a Junior at UT. Most of his free time is spent watching sports, listening to good music, and enjoying life. If you wish to contact him, you can email him at amillike@vols.utk.edu, follow him on Twitter, @AdamMilliken14, or find him at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-milliken/109/a89/a32.