KNOXVILLE -- Alden Hill admits he's counting down the days.
The Ohio running back and Tennessee commitment will move to Knoxville and enroll for the spring semester in less than a month, and while the anticipation of beginning his college career is growing, his mind is not completely with the Volunteers yet.
"People have always asked me if I'm excited about leaving," Hill said Tuesday. "I'll be excited once I get down there because that will be my life from now on, but right now I'm focused on the present. I feel like if I do that, I won't forget things, I won't take anything for granted, I'll cherish everything while I'm here, and then I get down there it's a new chapter.
"That's when the excitement and anxiety comes."
It'll also be when the Vols get the larger tailback they were looking for to fill a spot in their 2012 recruiting class. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Hill provides the bigger, more powerful back the roster currently lacks. The Vols continue to search for a third back for a class that now has just Hill and Georgia speedster Quenshaun Watson after the Vols and Imani Cross parted ways.
Freshmen Marlin Lane, Tom Smith and Devrin Young are the lone tailbacks on the Vols' roster, though Rajion Neal could switch back from receiver if the depth at wideout develops. Smith rarely played this season, and Young was more of a return specialist who was used for reverses and jet sweeps offensively. Lane struggled this season and underwent knee surgery earlier this month.
"We're thin at the running back position," Hill said. "[We have] a want and a need for a big running back, someone that can get the tough yards and break tackles. That's what they were looking for and that's what they talked to me about when I came down for my camp. In the SEC you need to have one of those."
Hill's high school career certainly had production. He ran for 4,977 yards and 72 touchdowns during his career at Marlington High School in Alliance, northeast of Canton and southeast of Akron. The Dukes are in Ohio's third-largest classification, and Hill split carries in Marlington's shotgun triple-option offense for two seasons with Dymonte Thomas, a junior who already has committed to play at Michigan.
"What his stats could have been," Marlington coach Ed Miley said of Hill. "He's a big, physical guy, but what makes him is his balance. He's got great coordination of balance for a big back."
Hill said when he arrived for UT's camp in July, the Vols' coaches didn't believe he was 220 pounds.
"They thought I was at 200 or 205," he recalled. "Until they saw more, they realized how big I am because I don't look it. It's all in my legs basically."
Hill ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the camp, earned a scholarship offer and promptly committed. He's rated as a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 48 running back. Vanderbilt was the only other SEC school to offer him a scholarship, but Michigan, Illlinois, Iowa and Northwestern of the Big Ten made offers as well.
Linebackers coach Peter Sirmon was Hill's primary recruiter, and the Vols hired Jay Graham as running backs coach last week. Hill said he's spoken to the former Vols back on the phone and expects an in-home visit with his new position coach later this week. Sirmon and head coach Derek Dooley visited Hill's school and home last week.
"I'm definitely excited," Hill said of Graham. "He was great for that program and a great running back, so it's always nice to be coached by someone that's been there and not only been there, but been one of the best that's been there. I've talked to him a few times on the phone, and it seems like he's got some good character, very charismatic and a good personality. It's hard for me not to like him."
It might be hard for Miley to see Hill leave his program. He said Hill has done a lot of community service and work in the school's youth program in addition to his football contributions. Hill also played basketball and ran track for the Dukes.
"His work ethic's great," Miley said. "He's definitely made himself a better football player through the weight room. He's always been a three-sport guy his whole career, which is amazing for the way he looks physically."
Hill will head to UT the first weekend in January.
"It's approaching quick," he said.