Tennessee added a talented graduate transfer last week in Michigan State running back Madre London. And he’ll add some much needed experience to one of the younger units on the team.
With Carlin Fils-Aime likely moving to the defensive secondary, the Vols will rely heavily on London and sophomore Ty Chandler to carry the load in 2018. We take a look at London’s strengths as a runner in another edition of RTI Film Study, analyzing how Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton will use the large, elusive back.
London is big. He comes to Knoxville standing at 6-foot-1, 218 pounds. He’s a bit bigger than John Kelly, but his running style mirrors the former Tennessee back.
— Will Boling (@will_boling) March 13, 2018
He embraces contact. London runs into the defensive backs here on the end of the run. Like Kelly, he doesn’t have a ton of blazing speed. But he wants to run you over.
London sheds an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage and keeps his legs moving, instantly breaking past the first level of the defense. That’s where he’ll excel in Tennessee’s offense. I expect Pruitt and Helton to utilize him in short yardage situations when they need to get three or four yards. Chandler will give this offense more big play potential, but London brings the consistency and elusiveness to not go backwards.
It takes two or three guys to bring London down. He’s got good pad level and excellent leg strength to keep moving forward after contact. He only has 13 career receptions, so he wasn’t used much in the Spartans’ passing game. Last year, John Kelly had 37 in one season with Tennessee. That led all Vols receivers. Chandler will primarily fill that role as well, but London probably deserves 8-10 touches per game in a pro style offense as a more conventional back.
— Will Boling (@will_boling) March 13, 2018
London’s vision is excellent. This is where I think he brings a wealth of experience that Tennessee needs in the backfield.
Ty Chandler is a speedy running back built for a spread offense. In high school at Montgomery Bell Academy, he played in a single back pro style offense built on power running. So he knows that scheme at the high school level. Now he’ll have to learn Helton’s version at the collegiate level.
London has experience in Power Five college football running a pro-style offense. He needs to teach this kind of patience and vision to guys like Chandler, Tim Jordan, Trey Coleman and freshman Jeremy Banks.
On this play against Western Michigan, London follows his fullback, who clears out the only defender in the way. Yes, it’s a pretty straightforward play. But London takes the perfect angle to keep his blockers in front of him. This speaks to the importance of Tennessee’s offensive line being on the same page with the rest of the offensive unit. That wasn’t always the case last year.
Of course, you can also use London and Chandler at the same time.
London has 12 career receptions, none bigger than this TD against Michigan last year.
— Will Boling (@will_boling) March 14, 2018
This is where I think Tennessee needs to get creative. They can use Chandler as a decoy on a pump fake or play action and let London follow his blockers out in open space like this.
Michigan State comes out in a jumbo shotgun set with two tight ends to the right side. One tight end drops back to protect the quarterback on the weak side. The other one runs a crossing route to attract linebackers away from London. And then he does the rest, waltzing into the endzone behind a convoy of blockers.
SEC defenses will come after Tennessee’s quarterback. It doesn’t matter if that’s Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano; teams will exploit the Vols’ inexperience and inconsistency on the offensive line. This is a good way to keep them guessing.
For all of Butch Jones’ failures at UT, he always had talented running backs. He just didn’t know how to use more than one of them at a time. Pruitt and Helton have to make sure Chandler and London get ample touches. Putting them on the field at the same time is one very easy way to do it. London’s vision and patience takes away the “big loss capability.” He’s not likely to lose three or four yards on any given play. At the very least, he can get back to the line of scrimmage on a simple screen pass.
Based on what I’ve seen on film, Chandler should still be the feature back of this offense. I expect him to get the majority of the carries. But London is a consistent back who knows how to run between the tackles and attack defenses past the first level of tacklers. He fits what Tennessee will look for in the future from their running backs. Strong, patient runners who move the ball forwards, not backwards.
Towards the beginning of the year, I expect London to carry the ball 8-10 times a game. That number may decrease as the season progresses and Chandler gets more comfortable in a more traditional offense. But the addition of London will help that running back room as a whole under yet another coaching transition.