On Thursday, Jeremy Pruitt announced that senior running back Tim Jordan had been kicked off the team following his arrest in Florida. The veteran runner had been a part of the Tennessee rotation for the past couple of seasons, but saw his career with the Vols end after he was booked on a concealed weapon charge in Florida.
With Jordan gone, Tennessee’s backfield depth certainly takes a hit. The Volunteers will lose a career 1,000 yard rusher — one that gave a little different style to the backfield. This obviously puts more on the plate of Eric Gray and Ty Chandler, who are now the unquestioned leaders of the group.
“We have plenty of guys that are very capable,” Pruitt said on Thursday. “Start with Ty Chandler, he is a guy that has played a lot of ball here. Eric Gray will be in his second year. Carlin Fils-aime is a guy that was a running back early on in his career, we moved him and he unfortunately suffered an injury last year. He is a guy who has experience.”
Tennessee is also set to welcome a few new faces at the position after a strong performance in the 2020 cycle. Four-star athlete Len’Neth Whitehead leads the way, likely set to start his career at running back. Three-star prospects Jabari Small and Tee Hodge now have a chance to immediately get in mix too.
“Tee Hodge and Jabari Small and Len’Neth Whitehead, guys that we signed that are in here and working,” Pruitt said. “We have guys there at that position that will get an opportunity. we have confidence in those guys.”
Eric Gray should be the official lead back in 2020 after a strong close to his freshman season. Gray torched Vanderbilt, then came back with an outstanding second half against Indiana in the Gator Bowl, helping propel Tennessee to another victory. The former four-star prospect out of Memphis averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his first season as a Volunteer.
Ty Chandler will be looking to build off of back to back 600+ yard seasons, set to run behind the strongest offensive line that he’s had to this point. We’ve yet to see the rising senior really put a full season of production together, but 2020 will offer his best chance yet by far.
One potential wildcard here could be Quavaris Crouch, who got some work in short-yardage situations at the end of 2019. Crouch is expected to have more on his plate at linebacker this year, which could eat into his potential work at running back. But without a proven ‘big back’ on the roster, we still could see him get some work early on in the season.
Regardless of who puts up the numbers, the Tennessee rushing attack should excel in 2020. Five starters return up front on the offensive line, while Georgia transfer Cade Mays is expected to put for immediate eligibility at guard. It’s been a while, but the Tennessee rushing attack should be the bread and butter of the offense once again. The loss of Tim Jordan hurts, but the Volunteers should be just fine.