KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — People might want to stop picking on Jalen Hurd.
The Tennessee tailback is growing tired of hearing that he’s too big to play the position, and opponents trying to bait him and his teammates into a war of words are wasting their time.
That’s what came out of Hurd’s media day interview, when the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hendersonville, Tenn., product was as efficient behind the podium as he is on the football field.
“I don’t want anybody to look at my size and say that will hurt me in any way, so I’m just working on things that any running back can do — small running back or big running back,” said Hurd, who has rushed for 2,291 yards and 17 touchdowns through two seasons at UT.
“I’d heard through the grapevine that some colleges might want me to play different positions,” Hurd said. “I’ve always felt I could play running back …. If I’m 6-8, I’m still playing running back, that’s just what I do.”
Hurd, who could break Travis Henry’s all-time rushing mark at UT of 3,078 yards, prefers to let his play do the talking.
That’s why he’s not responding to the trash talking coming out of Florida or Twitter.
“We’re not really a talking team; we don’t want to talk, we just go out and play,” Hurd said when asked about not responding to the goading, some of which has come from Gators’ defensive back Jalen Tabor.
“We’re on Twitter as well, all the team, (and) we see what people say,” Hurd said. “We see what people tweet out and say about us, the negativity and the positivity.
“You don’t look too much into the negativity. You see it, it definitely does motivate you, you’re like ‘Ok, we’ll see how it turns out.’”
Until then, Hurd will continue going to work every day, looking to measure up to the enormous expectations that he places on himself.
As much as the public anticipates — he was a preseason second-team All-SEC pick — Hurd expects more out of himself, regardless of the facet of the game.
“My expectations are higher than anyone can put on me,” Hurd said. “I want to be the best in everything I do. I take my pass blocking very very serious and I want to be considered the best blocking back out there.”
As for carrying the football, Hurd is like any other back in that he likes the advantages of running out of a Deep I-formation.
At the end of the day, however, it doesn’t seem to matter.
“I feel like I can run out of any offense they want to put me in,” Hurd said. “I want to be the total package.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.