The Times Free Press is taking a daily positional look at the 2017 University of Tennessee football team leading up to the first practice Saturday. Today we look at running backs:
The now-departed Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara began the 2016 season as the featured players in Tennessee's backfield. By season's end, John Kelly had more yards than both. Kelly, now a junior, returns to anchor a Tennessee running back corps that will be relied upon as the Volunteers break in a new quarterback. Kelly averaged a team-high 6.4 yards per carry as he ran for 630 yards and five touchdowns last season. Carlin Fils-Aime is a sophomore who is likely to have an increased role as he returns after running for 58 yards on 14 carries last season.
Ty Chandler is a freshman from Nashville who could have an immediate impact. The four-star prospect ran for more than 2,000 yards his final two high school seasons at Montgomery Bell Academy and turned down scholarship offers from some of the nation's best programs to join the Vols. When practice begins, coaches will begin to get a sense of the type of load Chandler will be ready to shoulder as a freshman. Running back Timothy Jordan from Bartow, Fla. - who was a three-star recruit with offers from North Carolina and Purdue - is new on campus, too. He could be a redshirt candidate but will likely be needed on the field at some point in 2017.
Vols preview, SEC football series
- Tennessee's Kahlil McKenzie has 'newfound appreciation'
- Teammates see Vols as snake in the grass waiting to strike
- Baylor grad Colton Jumper highly regarded as Vols build linebacker depth
- Graduate transfer cornerback Shaq Wiggins still learning Vols way [photos]
- Larry Scott, Bob Shoop know they'll learn more about Vols later
- Wiedmer: Big Orange Nation now has practice to talk about
- Vols open preseason practice [video, photos]
- Tennessee quarterbacks willing to play together [video]
- Evan Berry leads Vols specialists into 2017
- Georgia not lacking for excitement entering Kirby Smart's second camp
- Vols position preview: Secondary mixes experience with youth
- Butch Jones excited about Vols' position competitions
- Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb aiming for all-time SEC status
- Position Preview: Darrin Kirkland Jr. heads big group of Vols linebackers
- Do-it-all Christian Kirk could shoulder the load for the Aggies
- Tennessee position preview: Receivers besides Jauan Jennings need to emerge
- Jake Bentley continuing his pioneering run through the SEC
- Tennessee position preview: Offensive line deep, versatile
- Brash Beisel expecting improved Missouri defense
- Tennessee position preview: John Kelly anchors Vols running backs
- Persistence has paid off for Mississippi State's Dez Harris
- Derrius Guice ready to take rushing reins at LSU
- Tennessee 'like a snake in the grass' entering 2017
- Kentucky quarterback eager to prove more doubters wrong
- Roquan Smith ready to build off Georgia's 2016 finish
- Florida expecting Martez Ivey to 'flourish' at left tackle
- Auburn's Tray Matthews making the most of second opportunity
- Allen continues run of quarterback stability for Arkansas
- Alabama's Calvin Ridley expected to benefit from passing-game emphasis
Kelly emerged as a high-quality Southeastern Conference running back last season and appears poised for a true breakout season in 2017 as he steps into the role as Tennessee's featured back. His experience will benefit a young group of running backs and should bring comfort to a new starting quarterback. He has been in big-game situations and thrived. There is optimism about Chandler's talent and the possibility that he could carve out a niche in the offense almost immediately. The coordinator and every position coach for the offense is new this season, with the exception of running backs coach Robert Gillespie. He has manned that post since 2013, and the continuity figures to benefit Kelly, who has developed into a budding star after being an overlooked high school prospect.
A lack of experienced depth at the position could quickly become an issue. Fils-Aime is a former four-star prospect, but he received limited touches last year. That puts pressure on Chandler and Jordan to be game-ready just months after arriving on campus. Kelly needs to show his pass-catching ability is legitimate.
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.