Jerry Mack Excited To See The Versatility Of Tiyon Evans

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    As fall camp continues to roll on for Tennessee and position battles are coming down to the wire, running back coach Jerry Mack has noticed two players who could bring the heat this season.

    It’s no secret that Tiyon Evans has continued building a solid reputation within the complex, especially taking his physicality to a different level. Evans’s strength on display has been a welcomed addition to the field, which kind of surprised Mack.

    “He’s been a real pleasant surprise for us, honestly,” Mack said on Monday. “We always knew Tiyon had some strength levels that those other RB’s didn’t have. But I tell ya one thing, he’s really grown up off the field. The progress is really coming into fruition on the field”.

    Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

    As Evans continues to work his way into the starting rotation for the Vols, a few characteristics have been noticed by Mack as they continue looking for ways to get Tiyon involved in this offense.

    “The power that he runs the football between the tackles, he’s got a great skill set, great ball skills as well because he was a kick returner also in junior college. So all those different things that you wanna do with the back, flex them out, running between the tackles, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with that.”

    But for Mack, it’s not just his ability to run through tackles, as he mentioned on Monday.

    “I think the biggest thing I’ve been really shocked with is the way he runs outside zone,” Mack said. “He has a real natural feel for it. I compare it to the old school guys like Terrell Davis, who was really good at having a feel for, those kinda plays, and that’s what I feel Tiyon has done really well.”

    It’s noticeable that Tennessee can play this situation, especially when needing a power runner to pick up those three yards on 3rd down. But Jerry Mack doesn’t see Evans as just a power back, as he feels he can be an every-down running back for this team. There will be times where the Vols aren’t going to sub in a different guy, so having the versatility of Evans will only help this football team.

    “Well, I think Tiyon can do it all, to be honest with you,” Mack said. “Not only in short-yardage but as an every-down back. I feel like he’s got the body type and skill set where you really don’t have to bring him out of the game. As we recruit, we’re really looking for guys who are all-purpose types of backs that we don’t have to take out of the game.”

    Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

    Josh Heupel would like to use his backs in many different ways, especially coming out of the backfield or going in motion to find the correct mismatch on defense. So with the group that he has now, Mack feels he has enough guys that can bring that kind of versatility.

    “We’ve got about three, maybe four guys in the room right now that can all do a different array of things,” Mack said. “Coming out of the backfield, whether we’ve already flexed them out or whether we bring them out of the backfield to try and create those matchups.”

    This football team will have the opportunity to use both Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans in multiple sets, possibly on the field simultaneously. But having that one-two punch will only maximize what the Vols will try to do in the run game, especially with so many different ways to use the pair. So when asked if these two running backs had separated themselves so far in fall camp, the answer shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    “I think kind of towards the end of fall camp per se, I think we’re still combing through the depth chart,” Mack said on Monday. “But I do think those two guys have separated themselves as being a little bit more at the top of the depth chart. Both of those guys could go into the game right now as 1A and 1B and participate. Both have a very similar skillset, but Jabari is obviously a little bit smaller, a little bit shiftier, has got some experience playing the receiver position, so he can do a lot of different things. But at the same time, you’ve got a Tiyon that has so much power, running between the tackles. Those guys have really been a good one-two punch throughout fall camp.”

    As the first game approaches and Tennessee starts finalizing their depth chart, the one position that could benefit them happens to be the one position they were a bit worried about coming out of spring.

    Trey Wallace is a Knoxville-based journalist who has been covering University of Tennessee athletics since early 2018. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football's biggest stories. His vast social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of Vol Nation's most trusted sources. Wallace was born and raised in Mobile, AL and graduated from the University of South Alabama. He loves the mountains as much as the beach and looks forward to living in East Tennessee for many years to come.