John Kelly is on a Record Pace to Start 2017 Season

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    Photo By Austin Perryman/Tennessee Athletics

    The 2017 season is only three games old, but running back John Kelly is already on a record pace for the Vols.

    Through three games this season, John Kelly has already amassed 349 rushing yards and five scores on just 56 carries. That gives him a 6.2 yard per carry average through three games, and his 349 rushing yards are the most in the SEC right now. Kelly’s five touchdowns are tied with Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald for the most rushing touchdowns this season in the conference.

    Along with all those rushing yards, Kelly has also hauled in 16 receptions for 191 yards as well. His 191 yards are the most receiving yards by any SEC running back by a wide margin. The second-highest total for an SEC back is 92 yards by South Carolina’s Rico Dowdle. His 16 receptions are also tied for the second-most in the conference, trailing only Auburn receiver Ryan Davis.

    Not only are Kelly’s numbers impressive in this early season from a conference standpoint, but they put him on pace to leave his name in Tennessee’s record books as well.

    Kelly is averaging 116.3 rushing yards per game this season. If he continues that pace for the rest of the regular season, he will finish the 2017 season with 1,396 rushing yards. That total would be good enough to place him third all-time in terms of single season rushing yards in school history. If you push that to 13 games counting a bowl game, Kelly would finish with 1,512 rushing yards at that pace. And that would be a school record.

    Through three games, Kelly already has five rushing touchdowns. He’s averaging 1.67 touchdowns a game right now, which would put him on pace to total 20 by the end of the regular season. That would also be the most in school history, surpassing Gene McEver’s 18 rushing touchdowns in the 1929 season.

    But Kelly isn’t just on pace to set rushing records at Tennessee. He could potentially smash another record as well.

    Kelly already has 540 total yards of offense through three games this season. That’s an average of 180 all-purpose yards a game thus far. If Kelly keeps up that kind of pace, he’ll crush the Vols’ record for most all-purpose yards in a single season just in the regular season alone.

    If Kelly keeps up the pace he’s at now, he would finish the 2017 regular season with 2,160 total yards of offense. Tennessee’s record right now for all-purpose yardage is 1,858 yards by receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in 2012. Kelly would finish with 2,340 total yards of offense if that pace is extended to a bowl game as well.

    Even though John Kelly wasn’t used as much as he should’ve been against Florida this past weekend, his numbers are still incredibly impressive and put him on pace to finish atop the record books at Tennessee. Granted, the 2017 season is still young and the Vols still have to face SEC defenses such as Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and even Vanderbilt. But Kelly has already proven he’s the most talented and reliable weapon on offense this season.

    Now the Vols just need to use him in the red zone.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.