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Tennessee Football: The Most Important Players of 2017: #1 John Kelly

Our countdown ends with Tennessee’s featured back.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

From ten to one, we’ve counted down the most important players for Tennessee’s success in 2017. We’ve arrived at the number one spot today. That honor goes to running back John Kelly.

Kelly became a big part of the offense after Jalen Hurd left the team midseason. He became an even bigger part when Alvin Kamara missed a couple games. His 6.4 yards per carry have Tennessee fans rightfully excited about the junior back.

With uncertainty at quarterback, young depth at running back and a new offensive cooridnator, Tennessee is going to have to lean heavily on Kelly right out of the gate.

Here’s what our staff had to say about Kelly, along with where they ranked him.

Terry Lambert: #1

Simply put, if the Vols are going to have any success offensively, Kelly is going to have to be a big part of things. We didn’t know much of anything about Kelly at this point last year, but he arrived on the scene and won everyone over with his angry running style and ability to finish. With an experienced line in front of him, I’m betting Kelly is in for a big year.

Conner Knapp: #2

John Kelly has been waiting in the wings. Kelly became a fan favorite in 2016, when he saw his playing time expand after the departure of Jalen Hurd. He just runs hard. He rarely goes down on first contact. Kelly will step into the starting role this season after two years behind Hurd and Alvin Kamara. With a new quarterback, Tennessee’s offense will go as far as Kelly can take it. Offensive Coordinator Larry Scott will lean heavily on the Detroit native, and if what he’s shown so far is any indication, the SEC is in for a wake-up call.

Evan Winter: #1

Even though John Kelly had a huge season last year, he is still under many people's radar and that is a good thing. Kelly will be the focal point of this offense and his hard running style should help set the tone as well. Not only is Kelly a playmaker, but he is also a favorite amongst his teammates and that goes a long way. The Vols offense and leadership will be in good hands with Kelly this year.