One of the very few things that stood out in a positive way was the running of freshman back Eric Gray, who got a lot more snaps than most anticipated. Gray played over Ty Chandler late in the game on Saturday, handling seven carries for 29 yards. Gray also caught six passes, going for 51 yards during the game.
It was a total of 80 yards from scrimmage in the debut game for Gray, who should be a huge part of this offense going forward.
As for why he was in the game late over Chandler, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt pointed towards ball security.
“You have to be able to secure the football,” Pruitt told the media on Monday. “So there were a couple of them on the ground. We went with Eric because we felt like he had the hot hand.”
Gray stepped onto the field and immediately looked like a special talent, even without putting up massive numbers. His ability to make defenders miss in the box stood out as the freshman runner turned a few negative plays into positives.
“He wanted in the game,” Pruitt said of Gray. “He wants to play. He did make some guys miss a little bit. He probably needs to put a foot in the ground and get north and south a little bit more. But I think he’s a guy that — what we saw Saturday is what we saw this fall camp.”
Ty Chandler ran for 48 yards on just six carries, including a 31 yard touchdown run in the first half. Tim Jordan notched just 16 yards on seven carries, while Jeremy Banks spent time on the defensive side with Daniel Bituli out.
With just one game under our belt, the running back rotation seems pretty even for now. But Chandler’s ball security could certainly swing things in Gray’s direction. It will be interesting to see how much run Chandler gets against BYU.
One thing to note in all of this — all the backs need work in pass protection, particularly Gray. If there’s anything that could keep him off of the field, it’s that. Outside of that detail, it appears Tennessee has a special offensive weapon on the roster. Hopefully this offensive line is able to help him out a little along the way.