Thunderous tailback Jeremy Banks 'has identified himself as a hammer'
Before Jeremy Banks entered the game Saturday, Tennessee was sitting at -1 yards rushing for more than an entire quarter.
This against ETSU.
But following a 47-minute lightning delay, Tennessee’s ghastly stat-line quickly changed thanks to some thunder from a freshman tailback.
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Memphis native took his first carry for 15 yards straight up the gut before trying to barrel over a safety in center field.
The powerful run immediately energized both his teammates and a snoozing Tennessee crowd, and five plays later, Banks brought more juice to Neyland Stadium, scoring his first-career touchdown with the Vols on a 1-yard plunge.
“When the play’s over with, either he’s going to be sore or they’re going to be sore,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Banks.
In hindsight, Banks probably could’ve — perhaps should’ve — scored a touchdown on the first run that actually woke up Tennessee's team. Instead of trying to make a guy miss in space, the freshman’s aggression took over as Banks attempted to bully the safety to get to the end zone.
“We’re just scratching the surface with him,” offensive coordinator Tyson Helton said gleefully describing his freshman tailback.
“It was fun, that first run, he went out there and broke into the open. He probably had two acres of grass, there’s a free safety standing right there and he made a bee line right for him to try and run him over. Hopefully, moving forward we can make some cuts and go score.”
Banks finished Saturday with 62 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. The numbers don’t blow you away, but Banks’ vicious and violent style — reminiscent of Marion Barber or a bigger John Kelly — is exactly what Pruitt wants at the tailback spot. Tennessee’s head coach complemented Banks’ intensity and competitiveness, even saying he has to calm the freshman tailback down sometimes in practice.
“He practices the right way. He competes hard,” Pruitt said.
“I’d rather say whoa than go. You have to say whoa with him.”
Last December, Pruitt quickly prioritized Banks as a key need in the 2018 class. Despite having little interest in Tennessee during most of the recruiting process, the Cordova High standout fell love with the Vols after his official visit and signed with teammate Jerome Carvin during the NCAA's new early signing period. He arrived on Rocky Top in a rather crowded backfield room, but the freshman quickly asserted himself and has begun to leapfrog teammates on the depth chart.
“He’s just a dawg,” left tackle Trey Smith said. “He brings it every day.”
Added linebacker Daniel Bituli: “Jeremy Banks is as hard of a runner as I’ve ever seen.”
Should Banks continue his strong practice habit — a requite under Pruitt for playing time — he appears in line for many more carries. He should certainly see plenty of touches against UTEP this Saturday (noon, SEC Network), while his physical and relentless running style should really be useful in SEC play — especially working behind an offensive line that isn’t exactly creating tons of holes. According to Pro Football Focus, Banks had 50 of his 62 yards after contact, breaking five tackles, too.
Thankfully for Tennessee, the freshman relishes that contact.
“There are two types of players, a hammer and a nail and he’s identified himself as a hammer,” defensive lineman Paul Bain said.
“We definitely respect him as a hammer. He’s a hard runner. He makes us all better. I love the energy, he comes in with a ton of emotion and he helps us all get better each and every day. He brings the energy to practice every day.”