KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara is ready to make the most of his return to the Southeastern Conference.

While so many of Tennessee’s top returning players have been sidelined or limited by injuries during spring practice, Kamara has received plenty of attention as a junior-college transfer making a positive first impression.

Kamara started his career at Alabama, but he transferred after one year and rushed for 1,211 yards in just nine games last season at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College. He’s relishing the opportunity to play big-time college football again.

“Not everybody gets to do this,” Kamara said. “Not everybody gets the chance we get, to come out here and play in front of some of the best fans in the country. Just being out here and competing with my teammates and in front of these fans, it’s amazing.”

Kamara was a highly rated recruit coming out of Norcross (Georgia) High School, but he couldn’t translate that success to Alabama. He was suspended twice while redshirting his lone season with the Crimson Tide.

But he’s avoided trouble at Tennessee thus far while winning plenty of praise from teammates and coaches.

The Volunteers are counting on Kamara and Jalen Hurd to provide versatility to their running game. Hurd’s power and Kamara’s speed could form an ideal combination.

“They both know that they need each other,” coach Butch Jones said. “You can never have enough running backs. I think that has been proven over time. Their relationship — they push each other. They coach each other. They help each other. They respect each other.”

The Vols need big seasons from both Hurd and Kamara because they’re the only scholarship running backs currently on Tennessee’s roster, though freshman John Kelly will join them this fall.

Kamara and Hurd believe they can produce enough first downs together that they already are referring to themselves as “CMG,” which stands for “Chain-Moving Gang.” Kamara said the nickname came from running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

“We want to be the best,” Kamara said. “That’s what we talk about. CMG — that’s our style.”

As he selected a new school, Kamara wasn’t worried by the presence of Hurd, who rushed for a team-high 899 yards last season. Rated as a five-star prospect by multiple recruiting services, Kamara had enough confidence in himself to believe he’d still find a way to contribute at Tennessee.  

“All the greats have somebody to compete against,” Kamara said. “If you don’t have anybody pushing you, what fun is it? Me and Jalen, he knows I’m good; I know he’s good. We just push each other and we get good results.”

Gillespie said that both want to be “the guy,” and he believes that will only help the offense.

“We learn from each other,” Hurd said. “If I do something good, he might pick up on something. If he does something good, I might pick up on something he did.”

Kamara’s impact already is apparent. The offense struggled when he sat out a week with a thigh bruise. When Kamara returned to practice, coaches said he made his presence felt.

Early in spring practice, Kamara said he was still trying to adapt to the fast pace of Tennessee’s offense. Kamara says he now has made that adjustment and is ready to help bring “furious energy” to the offense.

“It’s given me a lot of confidence,” Kamara said, “just getting in and learning the offense, getting chemistry with my O-line and quarterback and me and Jalen getting that good relationship going with Coach G (Gillespie) pushing us.”

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