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Explosive Ty Chandler returns, sparks Tennessee offense just in time for SEC play

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Chandler adds a new dimension.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Through three games, the running back rotation is the least of Tennessee fans’ worries. Tim Jordan has looked great, while Jeremy Banks and Madre London have added quality reps behind him.

One guy we hadn’t seen much of before Saturday was Ty Chandler. The sophomore back was expected to lead Tennessee’s backfield this season, but suffered a head injury against West Virginia in the opener. Chandler only played a handful of snaps against the Mountaineers, which likely further handicapped the offense. He could have played against ETSU if he was needed, but the staff chose to play it safe.

On Saturday against UTEP, we saw just how valuable Chandler could be. He took a toss play 81 yards to the house, grabbing another gear and speeding away from the UTEP secondary. That’s something that the other backs in the stable can’t offer.

“Ty is a guy that — he’s a pretty instinctive runner,” Pruitt said after the game on Saturday. “He’s got good vision, but he’s got good speed. He got out there and did a good job finishing that run. It’s a good thing he did, because I’m not sure that we wouldn’t have gotten another penalty before we got in the end zone, so I’m glad he got it to the end zone.”

That explosive run was much needed for a team that couldn’t seem to get things together against UTEP. It was just a 10-0 ballgame at the time and Chandler’s touchdown allowed Tennessee fans to breathe a sigh of relief.

Despite missing the better part of two game, Chandler is still the Vols’ second leading rusher for the season. Tim Jordan still leads the way with 232 yards. The two split the bulk of the work on Saturday with Jordan seeing 13 carries and Chandler seeing 12. Both London and Banks saw nine opportunities also.

With the Florida Gators coming to town to kickoff SEC play this weekend, I’ll be interested to see how that rotation changes. One thing is for sure though — Ty Chandler is Tennessee’s most explosive option. Getting him out in space is something that Tyson Helton needs to do more of in the future.