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Athlon Sports Ranks the Top SEC Running Back Tandems

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Where did the Vols check in?

AutoZone Libery Bowl - Georgia v TCU Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Athlon Sport has been pumping out some great content this year, getting us set for the 2017 season. This time, they’ve ranked the top SEC running back duos for 2017. To no one’s surprise, Georgia’s Chubb/Michel and Alabama’s Scarbrough/Harris checked in at number one and number two.

However, Athlon slighted Tennessee here, ranking John Kelly and Ty Chandler 12th of 14 duos. Here’s a little of what they had to say.

Kelly finished 2016 with 630 yards on 98 carries – averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per rush. Kelly reached the end zone five times, including once against Missouri after rushing for 101 yards. Look for Kelly to push for 1,000 yards in 2017 as Tennessee’s No. 1 back.

Athlon went on to say that Ty Chandler will be “tough to keep on the bench.”

While I understand the rationale here, I still think Tennessee should be higher on this list. I think John Kelly is going to make up most of the offense for Tennessee this season. We saw snippets last season, but I think he’s going to take this opportunity and run.

Sophomore Carlin Fils-aime will factor into this equation, but it’s going to be impossible to play him over Ty Chandler for long, assuming Chandler lives up to his billing. Chandler is already the bigger of the two backs and is widely expected to fill that No. 2 running back role, just as Athlon projects.

As far as the ranking goes, I know Chandler is an unknown, but I also feel like John Kelly did enough to earn some more respect here. Another thing that is working against Kelly and Chandler is just the sheer amount of talent at running back in the league, however. Damarea Crockett, Benny Snell, Devwah Whaley, Jordan Scarlett, Ralph Webb, Trayveon Williams, Derrius Guice and Kamryn Pettway are all set to start for their respective teams, creating a conference loaded with talented backs.

From that perspective, I certainly get it. There’s a wealth of talent in the SEC at running back, as usual. But there’s also no reason that John Kelly and Ty Chandler can’t climb this list by the end of the season.

As I’ve written all summer, Tennessee returns everyone up front and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be a strength this season. The offensive line is finally in a place to push some people around this season. Kelly and Chandler are set to be the beneficiaries, but that offensive line must show up and show out first.