Tennessee ended up with three potential fits at running back during the early signing period. While there’s not an immediate need at the position for 2020, Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan will be moving on after next year, freeing up some work for others on the roster in 2021. That’s where these guys likely come in.
The Volunteers added Tee Hodge, Len’Neth Whitehead and Jabari Small to this class. On Wednesday, Jeremy Pruitt broke them all down.
“Tee Hodge is a guy that we targeted early on,” Pruitt said after the dust settled on Wednesday. “He came to one of the first camps that we had here, another guy that’s a part of a state championship team. He’s a big guy, loves Tennessee, wanted to be here. He’s been a core guy in this class helping recruit, committed and never wavered the whole time.”
Hodge was a three-star prospect and stands in at 6-0, 216 pounds. He will likely fill the big back role for Tennessee, maybe spelling Eric Gray in 2021.
“Len’Neth Whitehead is a big athlete,” Pruitt said. “Probably 235 pounds, throws the shot 69 feet, so that tells you a little something about his athleticism.”
Whitehead has been listed as both a running back and a linebacker, but most seem to think that he will end up playing on defense for Tennessee. But the Vols announced him as a runner to start, though Pruitt didn’t offer many comments on a specific position, which is probably telling.
247Sports has Whitehead listed as a top 100 prospect in the class, checking in at No. 88 overall. He’s their seventh rated linebacker prospect in the class. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Whitehead would be a load at the running back position. But with the more immediate need coming at inside linebacker, it will be interesting to see if he bounces back and forth to start.
“Jabari Small is a guy that can play tailback, he can play in the slot,” Pruitt said. “To me, he’s a guy that’s very similar to a guy we signed last year in Eric Gray. A guy that can get out of the backfield and create mismatches — a rocket sweep guy, return guy.”
Small was a three-star prospect out of Memphis. He compares similarly in size to Gray, listed at 5-10, 193 pounds.
A big emphasis for this class was speed, which Small fits the bill for. Tennessee needed offensive playmakers with Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway walking out the door, regardless of position. Like Pruitt mentioned, he’s likely going to do a little bit of everything for the Vols offensively.
Small figures to play alongside of Eric Gray once Chandler and Jordan move on, specializing on passing downs.