Starter: Eric Gray (So.)
Three seniors may return to the running back room, but Eric Gray is likely to be the No. 1 option. Jay Graham’s room could prove to be “running back by committee,” but Gray has the most natural ability of anybody in the room.
Gray rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns on 101 carries last season. He added 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown. Gray averaged a team-high 5.3 yards per carry and set a true freshman record when he exploded in Tennessee’s regular season finale against Vanderbilt.
RB No. 2: Ty Chandler (Sr.)
Ty Chandler is Tennessee’s returning leading rusher from a season ago at 655 yards. While Gray may end up being the No. 1 back, Chandler is going to play a key role in Chaney’s offense, whether it be on the ground or in the air. Chandler accounted for 718 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns last season.
RB No. 3: Tim Jordan (Sr.)
Jordan is the back in Graham’s room with the most question marks surrounding him right now. After he was arrested less than two weeks ago in his home state of Florida, he may not even return to Knoxville. Jordan doesn’t possess the game-breaking ability that Gray and Chandler do, but he is a reliable veteran option, thus making it a key loss if he is kicked off the team for his actions.
Other Options: Carlin Fils-aime (R-Sr.), Tee Hodge (Fr.), Len’Neth Whitehead (Fr.), Jabari Small (Fr.)
Tennessee will need a No. 3 back if Jordan is indeed kicked off the team. More importantly, UT needs a bruising running back who can get the job done in short-yardage situations. Tee Hodge and Len’Neth Whitehead are the most likely options, but Hodge dealt with injuries in high school and Whitehead may ultimately end up at linebacker.
Fils-aime and Small don’t fit the build of a bruising running back. They could still carve out a role in the room, however. Fils-aime may not be on the roster by the time fall camp rolls around, while Small, Hodge, and Whitehead are redshirt options, especially if Jordan remains on the team.