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Vols’ Leading Rusher’s Status Remains Unclear For Pittsburgh

Tiyon Evans Tennessee
Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans was explosive in his debut game for the Vols. However, his status for Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh continues to remain unclear due to an unspecified medical reason. Vols’ head coach Josh Heupel spoke about his team’s availability on both Wednesday and Thursday but did not provide a substantial answer on either day.

On Wednesday’s SEC media teleconference, Heupel was directly asked if Evans would be available for kick-off.

“All injuries, I’ve told you, we’ll talk (about) later in the week,” Heupel said on Wednesday. “Those are things we’ll address as we get closer to kick-off. I don’t like to speculate until we get later in the week.”

However, one day closer to kick-off on Thursday, the Tennessee coach was still not ready to answer. During his press conference on campus Thursday, Heupel again spoke about Evans. An added question this time, though, was if the running back had practiced on Thursday.

“I don’t have any comment on any of our guy’s injuries and where they’re at,” Heupel said during his Thursday press conference. “Like I said, we always show up and make those determinations on Saturday.”

After broadly pointing to later in the week for an answer the first time around, Heupel was much more specific the second. So, essentially, the answer about Evans will be given on game day.

Tiyon Evans, who had his Tennessee debut against Bowling Green, was tremendous in his first showing. The junior college transfer led Tennessee with 120 rushing yards, according to UT Athletics. Evans also broke out the longest run for the Vols in the game with a gain of 21. As the game continued to play out, it was apparent that Evans and Jabari Small were working as a one-two punch to the Falcon’s defense.

The Vols gave their two backs fairly equal carries, with Small getting 22 to Evans’ 16. Both Evans and Small had a rushing touchdown on the night, and Small wound up with a total of 117 yards on the ground.

If Tiyon Evans cannot play for Tennessee on Saturday, the Vols could very well continue their rotation of backs. Instead of doubling Small’s carries, Tennessee could slot a combination of Jaylen Wright and Marcus Pierce into some of Evans’ carries. 

Against Bowling Green, Wright, a true freshman, had 14 yards on four carries. Meanwhile, Marcus Piece had 36 yards on eight carries in the game. Pierce surprised many as the fourth running back for Tennessee but did impress coaches during fall camp.

Tennessee will host Pittsburgh this Saturday at noon ET in Neyland Stadium.

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