Top Tennessee Tailbacks Questionable For Week Three Matchup

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    Tennessee Running Backs

    Tennessee running back Jabari Small. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

    After explosive debuts against Bowling Green, neither Tiyon Evans nor Jabari Small had the chance to follow it up in week two. Small did see some action in the first quarter of game two but left with an injury before the ten-minute mark in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Evans was questionable all week leading into the game and did not play for an undisclosed medical reason.

    Now, heading into week three against Tennessee Tech, both Evans and Small are once against questionable moving into the back half of the week. Furthermore, on the SEC teleconference call on Wednesday, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel did receive questions on if Evans and Small would be available Saturday.

    “Both of those guys, we don’t have a final word on yet,” Heupel said on Wednesday. “Our hope is that those guys will be able to play, but we’ll find out as we get towards the end of the week.”

    In week one, Evans and Small had 237 yards and two touchdowns between the two of them. Small led the team in attempts (22) while going for 117 on the ground. Meanwhile, Evans led the team in yards (120) on 16 carries. Even though it was against an inferior opponent, Tennessee’s ability to run the ball well was significant in the game. Then, against Pittsburgh in week two, Tennessee’s rushing numbers took a fairly substantial drop. However, just from the running back perspective, it took a significant hit.

    Tennessee Running Backs

    Tennessee RB Tiyon Evans. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

    Against the Panther’s defense, Tennessee had 136 yards rushing in total. However, 103 were from quarterbacks Joe Milton (54) and Hendon Hooker (49). Small had 18 yards before he left the game, and freshman Jaylen Wright had 15 on his 11 carries. Wright is a promising young tailback that multiple coaches are high on. Yet, he also lacks experience, and the competition will only get more difficult after week three. It’s no knock on Wright, but the Tennessee offense does work much better with Evans and Small at the end of the day.

    On Monday, Tennessee offensive lineman Jerome Carvin spoke about the team’s mindset when injuries start to pile up.

    “Injuries are part of the game, you know, it’s part of football,” Carvin said on Monday. “And that just keys into the guys that are behind that have to step up. Those guys have to be ready to play. Whenever your time is called, you have to be ready. It’s a key emphasis that coach Heupel and our offensive unit have made; the second and third guys have to be ready because you never know when your name and your time are going to be called. So we have to be fully locked in and focused.”

    Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel will have another press conference this Thursday. There he will likely receive questions regarding the Vols’ running backs. However, the answer may not come until game-time on Saturday for a second straight week.

    Tennessee will host Tennessee Tech this Saturday at noon ET.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.