Coming out of high school, Ty Chandler was a high four-star running back with lots of expectations heading into his first year with the Vols. Unfortunately for him, Tennessee already had a star at running back in John Kelly, and Chandler was rarely used.
But according to Athlon Sports, the sophomore running back is in a perfect position to have a breakout campaign in 2018.
Chandler is the projected starter for the Vols at running back heading into the 2018 season. He’ll have some competition at the position, but right now the talented sophomore is the favorite to be the Vols’ starter at the position. And Athlon Sports believes he’ll have a strong second year with Tennessee.
Athlon ranked 30 running backs who are most likely to have breakout seasons in 2018, and Chandler came in at No. 10 on their list.
“After working as the backup to John Kelly last season, Chandler is primed for a breakout season as Tennessee’s No. 1 option in the backfield,” writes Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports. “The Nashville native flashed potential in his true freshman campaign, recording 305 yards and two scores on 71 attempts. Chandler rushed for 120 yards against Kentucky and also scored once on a kickoff return versus Indiana State. Michigan State graduate transfer Madre London will push for time, but Chandler is the best all-around (and big-play) option for coordinator Tyson Helton.”
Chandler only touched the ball 81 times in 12 games as a true freshman last year, but he did a lot of damage with those touches. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored twice on the ground and added 108 receiving yards on 10 catches as well.
As a freshman, Chandler only averaged 6.8 touches a game despite being an effective weapon on offense. He burst onto the scene in Tennessee’s second game of the season when he returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Indiana State, and he followed that up with a gritty performance against Florida with seven carries for 30 yards and two catches for 31 yards.
But it wasn’t until Chandler was forced to make his first career start that he truly started to get utilized properly.
John Kelly was suspended for Tennessee’s contest against Kentucky after a minor drug charge earlier that week. Chandler got the nod as the Vols’ starter at running back, and he shined, running for 120 yards and two scores on 22 carries while also catching two passes for 33 yards.
Despite that, Chandler only carried the ball 22 times over the Vols’ final four games, and 11 of those came in Tennessee’s game against Southern Miss. He didn’t touch the ball once on offense during the Vols’ 30-10 loss to LSU.
Chandler is in line to be the Vols’ go-to option in the backfield this season. And with Tyson Helton implementing more pro-style sets on offense and focusing more on the running game this season, Chandler could make a name for himself as a sophomore.