Vols have to run the football for Heupel's offense to be effective

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans, pictured, is eager to compete for playing time with sophomore Jabari Small and redshirt freshman Dee Beckwith.

For all the intrigue and speculation regarding who will emerge in Tennessee's four-man quarterback competition, there is another fairly significant question that could determine whether head coach Josh Heupel's offense is a success during his first season in Knoxville.

Can the Volunteers develop a formidable rushing attack?

"We're going to have to run the football. It's the SEC," sophomore running back Jabari Small said this past week. "We're going to play fast, and we're going to run the football a lot - a lot of vertical running, so it will give me a chance to get downhill and show my skill set."

Small is Tennessee's top returning rusher - he carried just 26 times for 117 yards last season - after the NCAA transfer portal exits earlier this year of Eric Gray to Oklahoma and Ty Chandler to North Carolina.