Former Vol Alvin Kamara named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara beat out Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson for the AP Rookie of the Year Award on Saturday. Kamara was the fifth running back taken in the 2017 draft by the New Orleans Saints and is just the second Tennessee player ever to win the award.

Kamara racked up 14 total touchdowns including two scores in the postseason. He led all running backs in the NFL with 826 receiving yards. He also led all running backs with over six yards per carry. Kamara fell behind only Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell in most receptions by a running back.

Fans voted Kamara the Pepsi Rookie of the Year in his first Pro Bowl appearance last week where he stood beside his teammate and fellow running back Mark Ingram. Ingram and Kamara were the first pair of running backs to log over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.

“I wish he was here because he’s a big reason why I’m standing right here and ya’ll are interviewing me as the Offensive Rookie of the Year,” Kamara said of Ingram. “Great teammate, great friend, a brother to me, great mentor.”

Ingram set career-highs with the help of Kamara, as he put up over 1,100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2017 season. They are also the first pair of running backs from the same team to be nominated to the Pro Bowl in over 40 years.

New Orleans swept the Rookie of the Year awards, as first-round cornerback Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kamara is the first player to tally five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. He led all rookies with 14 touchdowns and came in second with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

“It would be awesome (if he wins),” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It would be so well deserved. … Listen, he’s certainly deserving. I’m just excited about the future with him.”

Kamara was famously underutilized in his times at Tennessee under former head coach Butch Jones. He recorded just over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his career in Knoxville. Still, Kamara averaged over six yards per carry and registered 23 touchdowns in his limited playing time.

“I’m not going to say too much. Thank you, Mom,” said Kamara on Saturday. “She told me not to say anything other than ‘Thank you’ because she thinks she looks ugly when she cries.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Jason Behnken

Vols in the Pros: Week 11

Photo by Ben Proffitt

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 11 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Started his 112th game as a long snapper and contributed to the Ravens 23-0 shut-out of the Green Bay Packers

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy and the Panthers had a bye week.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: Malone and the Bengals had a bye week.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt punted eight times for an average of 47 yards-per-punt and two balls downed inside the 20 yard line. The Browns lost 19-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: Witten had just one catch for seven yards in the Cowboys demoralizing 37-9 loss to the Eagles.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had two tackles and a sack in the Jags 19-7 win over the Browns.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera did not have any recorded stats.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Bray did not have any recorded stats this week.

Eric Berry: Berry is out for the season after rupturing his achilles.

Zach Fulton: Fulton started at center in the Chiefs 10-9 loss to the Giants.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt logged five punts for an average of 43 yards-per-punt and downed four balls inside the 20 yard line.

Miami Dolphins

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had eight rushes for 42 yards, including over 70 yards and a touchdown receiving in the Saints 34-31 overtime win against the Redskins.

New York Giants

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson recorded four catches for 45 yards in the Raiders 33-8 loss to the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett: Barnett tallied three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles 37-9 beatdown of the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster started in the Steelers 40-17 win over the Titans on Sunday.

Justin Hunter: Hunter was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton remains on the injury reserve list, but he has returned to practice.

Seattle Seahawks

Justin Coleman: Coleman had one tackles in the Seahawks 34-31 loss to the Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers logged three tackles in the Bucs 30-20 win over the Dolphins.

Austin Johnson: Johnson is currently on the practice squad.

Luke Stocker: Stocker had no reported stats during this game.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Ben Proffitt

New Orleans Saints select Alvin Kamara

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

With the 67th overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

In Kamara, the Saints are getting a fantastic playmaker. Head Coach Sean Payton will have the former Vol plugged into the offense immediately, helping form a tremendous trio in the backfield with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. All of the sudden, the Saints have a strong supporting cast surrounding franchise quarterback Drew Brees, something New Orleans hasn’t had in recent years.

This is a great fit for both Kamara and the Saints. At Tennessee, Kamara was one of the most exciting playmakers in the SEC and now has the potential to be a star in the NFC South thanks to the system Payton runs. Kamara’s versatility will allow the Saints to use him in their rushing attack as well as in passing situations. He’s a powerful runner with a series of strong moves in his repertoire, making it hard for defenders to tackle him.

The talent of Kamara and the outstanding football mind of Payton makes for a fantastic head coach and player combination. Payton will be able to line Kamara up anywhere on the football field to create a favorable matchup. When Reggie Bush was at his peak in the NFL, it was because Payton was putting him in positions to succeed all over the football field, and that’s exactly what Payton will do with Kamara. During the draft process, Payton personally worked Kamara out.

Saints fans should be extremely excited about the addition of Kamara. He’s a fantastic personality and can be a leader in New Orleans. In a year or so, the former Tennessee running back will be a fan favorite.

Edited by Quinn Pilkey

Featured image by Sumner Gillam

Where Tennessee’s top draft prospects fit best

The 2017 NFL Draft is just a week away, and for the first time in two years, the Vols will be well-represented on draft day.

Tennessee has a handful of guys that are certain to be drafted, while a couple Vols could potentially sneak their way into the later rounds of the draft. With NFL teams searching for the next faces of their franchises, let’s look at where the Tennessee prospects would be good fits.

Derek Barnett:

 Best fits – Saints, Panthers, Bengals 

These three teams have one thing in common: they must upgrade their pass rush. Barnett would do just that for any NFL team, but especially these three. The Bengals finished 19th in sacks last season, while the Saints finished 27th in the league. With the departure of Kony Ealy in Carolina, the Panthers need an edge presence to replace his production. As a top-three pass rusher in this year’s draft class, Barnett would be an instant upgrade. With the Panthers picking at No. 8 and the Bengals picking at No. 9, don’t expect Tennessee’s all-time sack leader to make it out of the top 10.

Alvin Kamara:

Best fits – Eagles, Packers, Colts

Kamara is regarded as a borderline late first-round pick or an early second-round pick. Depending on the particular team’s grade, the former Vols running back could easily find himself being selected as early as the middle of the first round.

The Eagles, Packers, and Colts are in need of a dynamic running back that can take their offenses to the next level. Each of these teams has an excellent quarterback in place, and pairing them with Kamara could be deadly. Wentz, Luck, and Rodgers utilize the running back quite often in the passing game and Kamara is one of the best receiving backs in this year’s class. Dumping the ball off to Kamara on screen plays or in the slot allows him to do what he does best: make plays in the open field.

Josh Dobbs:

Best fits – Steelers, Patriots, Cardinals 

After a marvelous Tennessee career, Dobbs now takes his talents to the NFL, where he has the tools to be a successful pro. First things first: Dobbs would be best served to land with a team who is led by a veteran quarterback. Somewhere where he can sit for a year or two, learn from the best, and develop in the passing game would be ideal. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of their careers. Who better to learn from than a future Hall of Famer? Dobbs’ classy personality would be an excellent fit for two of the best organizations in all of sports.

After not having a true quarterbacks coach in Knoxville for much of his career, it would serve Dobbs best to land with a team whose coach has an offensive background. The Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians fit that bill perfectly. Arians has a fantastic track record when it comes to developing quarterbacks. He played an instrumental role in the development of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Roethlisberger. Expect Dobbs to sneak his way into the second round of the draft as NFL teams continue to fall in love with Tennessee’s former quarterback.

Josh Malone:

Best fits – Titans, Buccaneers

 After leading Tennessee in receiving yards, Malone declared for the draft following his junior campaign. Many are overlooking Malone, but his size and speed allow him to be a big target down the field for quarterbacks. Along with blowing the tops off of defenses on deep routes, Malone is also exceptional at making plays on shorter routes. If Malone can take his route running to the next level, there’s no reason he can’t be a starter in the NFL for a long time.

Who has young gunslingers and no vertical threats at wide receivers? That would be the in-state Titans, as well as the Buccaneers. Malone would be a fantastic deep threat on the other side of Mike Evans in Tampa Bay or Tajae Sharp in Nashville. Expect Malone to come off the board in the fourth or fifth round.

Cam Sutton:

 Best fits – Steelers, Chiefs, 49ers, Falcons

Sutton enters the NFL as a corner, but don’t be surprised if he ends up at safety. Thanks to his versatility, teams are falling in love with the former Tennessee defensive back.

The Chiefs, Steelers, 49ers, and Falcons are all in a situation where they would be wise to upgrade the defensive back position. Sutton carries himself like a pro in everything he does, and would can provide an instant impact. The Georgia native is an elite athlete, has great football instincts, and has excellent football IQ. Sutton also excelled as a punt returner in college, making him even more valuable to teams. Expect him to be drafted anywhere from the third to the fifth round.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin:

 Best fits – Dolphins, Raiders, Redskins, Lions

Reeves-Maybin decided to return for his senior season in Knoxville, but things didn’t go to plan. The Tennessee native missed almost all of the season due to a shoulder injury, and because of it, NFL teams are nervous to draft him. General managers and team executives love his football IQ and production, but because of his injury history, many question just how effective he’ll be in the NFL.

Reeves-Maybin is a tackle machine, and, if healthy, could provide a spark to a team that doesn’t tackle well. His speed and play recognition allowed him to lead Tennessee in tackles in 2014 and 2015. Reeves-Maybin is also an excellent special teams player, which would help him carve out a name for himself in the league.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Film Review: Alvin Kamara

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

Overview

A 5-star recruit and one of the top prospects in the 2013 class, 18 year-old Alvin Kamara was headed to Alabama to become the next “big thing.” After a preseason injury forced Kamara to redshirt his freshman year, he decided to leave Alabama. The following season Kamara enrolled at Hutchinson Community College, where he won conference offensive player of the year after racking up 1,211 yards and 21 touchdowns. After receiving attention from several SEC schools, Kamara took his talents to Knoxville where he collected 1,977 yards and 23 touchdowns on 284 total touches across two years. Those are impressive numbers for a back who, to the displeasure of many Tennessee fans, spent most of his college career as the Vols second-string back.

Projected as a potential first round draft pick, Kamara brings all the intangibles of an elite NFL running back. While his vision and first step quickness creates misses in tight spaces, Kamara is deadly in open space and has shown to be a sure-handed pass catcher either out of the backfield or at the slot position.

Strengths

Kamara is one of the most balanced running backs in this year’s NFL draft. Whether he is being utilized in the passing game or as the feature back in Tennessee’s run-heavy spread offense, Kamara has the athletic ability to be explosive at several positions on the field.

Kamara instantly brought big play possibilities to the Volunteers’ offense whenever he saw the field. His strong lower body provides extreme balance and flexibility, allowing him to quickly change directions in confined spaces. His flat-out athleticism allows him to twist, spin and ricochet off of defenders like a kid playing bumper cars.

While Kamara seemed to lack some vision behind the O-line at the beginning of the 2015 season, he quickly learned to become more patient, allowing the play to develop before using his vision and quickness to not only spot the open running lanes but hit them with speed. As the 2016 season progressed and Kamara took over the starting job, his vision and awareness in the backfield continued to get better and better.

Film Breakdown

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It took some time, but Tennessee eventually found multiple ways to utilize Kamara in the passing game. Here against Georgia, Kamara shows off his ability to catch the ball and create plays downfield. He’s lined up as a slot receiver running an out-route to the top of the field. Showing his unwillingness to go down, he sheds a tackle and kicks on the jets for a highlight-reel touchdown

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With the Vols needing a big play late in the 4th quarter against Texas A&M, Kamara showed off his vision and lateral quickness. He spots the Aggies’ blitz and beats the first defender behind the line of scrimmage before turning his shoulder pads downfield. His vision and quick acceleration allows him to turn a sure-fire tackle for a loss into positive yards and a crucial Tennessee first down.

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Again showing his vision and acceleration, Kamara spots and hits a massive hole opened by his offensive line. Whats more impressive here is his cut once he reaches the second level. Kentucky’s middle linebacker looks to be filling the hole, but Kamara hits him with a shifty cut and he’s off to the races.

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To be fair, Vanderbilt really struggled to wrap up Kamara on this play. Still, this touchdown perfectly displays Kamara’s ability to bounce and ricochet off defenders. Nine of the Commodores’ 11 defenders touch Kamara but with his shiftiness and strength, the Norcross, Georgia native is still able to lower his head and finish the play.

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Kamara was an explosive option for the Volunteer’s return game, which already featured high school track-star Evan Berry and standout senior Cameron Sutton. Kamara didn’t see as many touches as Vol fans would have liked, but when he did he looked explosive. At home against Western Carolina in 2015, Kamara brought Neyland Stadium to their feet with this nifty punt return, carving through the Catamounts for a touchdown.

Weaknesses

At 5 feet 10 inches tall and just 215 pounds, most people think of Alvin Kamara as a speed-back, but his 4.56 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine shows that he lacks the top-end breakaway speed that most top backs in the league have. That being said, he makes up for where he lacks with his aggressive, shifty running style.

Another one of Kamara’s issues is his predictability. He prefers to cut left, even if it means cutting back inside towards defenders rather than avoiding contact and step out of bounds. While everyone loves the show-stopping running back who can finesse his way through a defense, there are points where his unwillingness to go down has also led to some ball-control issues.

Even though his vision and patience in the backfield has improved, but it’s still hit-or-miss at times. There have been points throughout Kamara’s short span at Tennessee where he struggled drastically with his ability to simply read the progressions of his blocks, especially on stretch plays.

Film Breakdown:

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Even though Kamara was able to shed the tackle and finish the run, this play against Bowling Green perfectly sums up his lack-of breakaway speed. That’s a Mid-American Conference defensive back. A starting SEC running back should have the ability to break away and waltz in for an easy six.

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Early in the game against Texas A&M, Kamara was trying to spark the Volunteer offense with a miracle touchdown, but instead he did too much. He ended up showing too much of the ball to the Aggies, allowing them to force and recover an easy fumble deep in their own territory.

Within Kamara’s first few years in the NFL, Tennessees fans will be looking back and regretting what could have been if Kamara started from day one in Knoxville. He’s yet to reach his ceiling and can only grow with experience and first team reps. Unfortunately, the Vols just weren’t able to give him that.

Edited by Quinn Pilkey

Featured image by Sumner Gillam

Which current NFL player does Alvin Kamara stack up to?

Photo by Ben Proffitt

Since his announcement to declare for the NFL Draft, Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara has been climbing up draft boards.

Kamara spent the majority of his Tennessee career overshadowed by former Vol Jalen Hurd. In his two years in Knoxville, Kamara had a total of just 210 carries and 74 receptions. He tallied just four games with more than 100 rushing yards in 24 games as a Volunteer. However, Kamara is still listed on most draft boards between the second and fourth rounds. With such a small sample size, what do scouts see in him?

Scouting Report

Kamara will likely be the first Tennessee running back drafted since Montario Hardesty in 2010. He has exceptional speed and acceleration, both of which will translate well into the NFL. Kamara’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is turning lots of heads. Kamara’s style of running is productive — he doesn’t dance around to gain yards — he is a downfield ball carrier. Despite being a backup for most of his career, . Kamara scored a productive 23 touchdowns in his 24 career games.

A lack of experience, blocking trouble and past knee injuries are weakness that could all factor against Kamara at the next level. Overall, he’s a hard running, pace-changing back that has the ability to gain big chunks of yards in the open field. However, injury concerns and blocking could be future problems.

NFL Comparison

The player that most reflects Kamara’s style is Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. Like Kamara, Charles was touted as one of the quickest backs in his draft class with an ability to make big plays in the open field. Physically, Charles is a near-mirror image of Kamara, and he has the sheer athleticism and speed that only a handful of players in the league have. He’s recorded 1,000 yards rushing in five of his nine seasons in the league and is a four-time Pro Bowler. None of this means Kamara’s career will match anything near what Charles has put together, but Kamara undoubtedly has plenty of similarities so far.

The 2017 NFL Draft will run April 27-29. Check the Tennessee Journalist for more SEC-related draft content before, during and after the draft.

Featured image by Ben Proffitt

Edited by Nathan Odom