There are lots of question marks for Tennessee going into 2017, and one of the biggest is at the running back position. At least when it comes to who will help support starter John Kelly.
And according to Athlon Sports, Tennessee is going to miss Alvin Kamara a lot this season.
Athlon ranked the top running back tandems in the SEC, and they placed Tennessee’s John Kelly and Ty Chandler 12th in the conference out of 14 teams. Here’s what Athlon had to say:
“Kelly assumed a larger role on the ground after Jalen Hurd’s transfer midway through the 2016 season. While Alvin Kamara remained the No. 1 back, Kelly finished 2016 with 630 yards on 98 carries – averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per rush. Kelly reached the end zone five times, including once against Missouri after rushing for 101 yards. Look for Kelly to push for 1,000 yards in 2017 as Tennessee’s No. 1 back. Sophomore Carlin Fils-aime has the inside track on the backup role after recording 14 carries last year, but true freshman Ty Chandler will be tough to keep on the bench. “
There’s no question that the potential is there for UT’s running backs. Athlon’s point is simply that Kelly and Chandler are still an unproven commodity. Plus, the second back on Tennessee’s depth chart isn’t set in stone.
UT is only ranked ahead of Ole Miss and Mississippi State according to Athlon. Unsurprisingly, Georgia’s duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are ranked No. 1 in the conference. The Bulldogs’ duo combined for over 2,000 yards last season despite Chubb’s season ending prematurely due to injury.
Kelly was an efficient rusher for Tennessee, gaining 630 yards last season on just 98 carries. His 6.4 yards per carry would have ranked him 20th in the country last year, but his 98 carries didn’t qualify him for the leaderboard. Most sites require a 100 carry minimum for that category.
Larry Scott will need Kelly and whomever supports him to have big seasons in order to take the pressure off his first year starting quarterback. The Vols will need their running backs to do better than 12th in the league in order to have success on offense.