At running back, John Kelly is off to the NFL, which opens the door for sophomore Ty Chandler, if he can prove to Pruitt and Helton that he will be up to the rigors of SEC play. Chandler is the Vols fastest back, but at 5’11” and 195 pounds, there are questions about his playing between the tackles every week. He rushed for 305 yards and two touchdowns his freshman season in 2017.
Bigger backs like sophomore Tim Jordan and true freshman Jeremy Banks might be more appealing to the Tennessee coaches. Banks was a key get from in-state Cordova during the early signing period last December.
Tennessee’s tight ends might get more work in this offense than in previous years, especially in the running game. Mr. Reliable Ethan Wolf is gone. Redshirt junior Eli Wolf (Ethan’s younger brother) looks ready to pick up the slack. Eli had a team high five catches for 63 yards, including a touchdown reception in the Orange & White Game last April.
And as far as the offensive line is concerned, the Vols lost some players that took a lot of snaps in Brent Kendrick, Jashon Robertson and Coleman Thomas. Youngsters like Riley Locklear and Nathan Niehaus will get their chances for playing time in 2018.
The key though (as always) is if these guys can stay healthy. Chance Hall missed all of 2017 due to injury. Drew Richmond was lost for the second half of the season too. If Trey Smith is ready to go, the Vols line will be better in 2018, but that’s still a big if. When healthy, Smith is one of the best players in the country, but he missed all of the spring with an undisclosed medical issue.
(You can follow Mark Nagi on Twitter @MarkNagi)
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