Ty Chandler continues our countdown of the most important Vols for the 2018 season. Check out the rest here.
Heading into 2018, Tennessee has to replace the offensive production of running back John Kelly, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams after declaring for the NFL Draft following his junior season.
Jeremy Pruitt has indicated Tennessee will likely use a committee approach at the running back position, but sophomore Ty Chandler seems to have a good chance of being the back with the most carries at the end of the season.
While playing behind Kelly last season, Chandler tallied just 71 carries. However, Chandler’s most noteworthy performance came in the wake of Kelly’s one-game suspension for a marijuana citation.
With Kelly suspended for the Vols’ contest against Kentucky, Chandler carried the ball 22 times and rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Chandler’s performance against the Wildcats was a glimpse for Tennessee fans into his ability as a feature back.
In addition to Chandler, the Vols have Tim Jordan, Jeremy Banks and Michigan State graduate transfer Madre London who figure to be in the mix for carries this season. London will likely be the biggest threat to playing time for Chandler, having totaled more than 900 yards and eight rushing touchdowns during his three years at Michigan State.
Chandler reminds me quite a bit of John Kelly in many ways, with possibly some of Kelly’s physicality substituted for a bit more elusiveness. Hopefully for Tennessee, Chandler is able to replicate Kelly’s production and lead an offense which struggled immensely in 2017.
With uncertainty once again looming at the quarterback position entering the season, Chandler is going to be critical to the success of Tennessee’s offense. While a small sample size, if what he showed in his few opportunities last season becomes the norm, Ty Chandler could continue Tennessee’s recent tradition of producing NFL running backs.