Backfield Duo of Small and Wright Named Doak Walker Preseason Candidates

Backfield Duo of Small and Wright Named Doak Walker Preseason Candidates

DALLAS – Tennessee running backs Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright were named preseason candidates for the 2023 Doak Walker Award, as announced by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Wednesday.

The award is presented annually to the top running back in college football and is named for SMU’s three-time All-America running back Doak Walker. It is the only major collegiate award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.

Tennessee was one of 11 schools with multiple players named to the preseason candidates list.

Small finds himself on the award’s preseason list for the second straight year while Wright is making his first appearance on the list. The duo ranked first and second on the team in rushing yards last season, combining for 1,609 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground.

Small led the team and finished second in the Southeastern Conference with 13 rushing scores a year ago, which was tied for sixth in single-season school history and marked the most by a Vol since Montario Hardesty had 13 in 2009.

Wright led the Big Orange in rushing with a career-high 875 yards to go along with 10 rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth most in the SEC. The Durham, North Carolina, native frequently showcased his big-play ability in 2022, ranking fifth in the conference with five runs of 30-plus yards and third in the league with three rushes of 50 or more yards.  

The PwC SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors will name 10 semifinalists in November, and three finalists, as voted on by the Doak Walker Award National Selection Committee, will be announced in November, as well. The committee will cast a second vote in December to determine the recipient. The National Selection Committee consists of past recipients, former NFL All-Pro and college All-America running backs, media members and selected special representatives.

The recipient of the 2023 Doak Walker Award will be announced live on The Home Depot College Football Awards.

A complete list of Tennessee’s preseason honors can be found below.

2023 Tennessee Football Preseason Honors

Sr. DE Tyler Baron
All-SEC Fourth Team (Athlon)

Sr. LB Aaron Beasley
All-SEC Third Team (Athlon)

Sr. OL Cooper Mays
Rimington Trophy Watch List
All-SEC Third Team (Media)
All-SEC Fourth Team (Athlon, Phil Steele)

Sr. WR Bru McCoy
All-SEC Second Team (Athlon, Media, Phil Steele)

Sr. QB Joe Milton III
Davey O’Brien Award Watch List
Maxwell Award Watch List
All-SEC Third Team (Media, Phil Steele)

Sr. RB Jabari Small
Doak Walker Award Preseason Candidate List

Sr. OL Javontez Spraggins
All-SEC Third Team (Media)

R-Sr. TE Jacob Warren
Mackey Award Watch List
Wuerffel Trophy Watch List
Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Nominee

So. WR Squirrel White 
All-SEC Fourth Team (Athlon)

Sr. RS Dee Williams
All-American Fourth Team (Phil Steele)
All-SEC Third Team (Athlon, Phil Steele)

Jr. RB Jaylen Wright
Doak Walker Award Preseason Candidate List
All-SEC Fourth Team (Athlon)

-UT Athletics

Vols RBs Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright / Credit: UT Athletics

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