As the Tennessee Volunteers football team continues spring practice, one of the most dynamic positions on the football team in the running back position. Despite the departure of Alvin Kamara to the NFL, the Tennessee running backs in waiting are some of the best athletes on Rocky Top.
Running back John Kelly is a strong yet speedy back who welcomes contact downfield and can juke out a defender. The 5’9”, 212-pound junior comes into the 2017 season with a good amount of on-field experience. Kelly appeared in 10 games his freshman year, and in 12 games in 2016. In that time, Kelly has amassed 795 net yards and 6 touchdowns on 138 rushing attempts. Kelly’s best games of the 2016 season came against Tennessee Tech, Missouri, and Nebraska in the Music City Bowl. Kelly recorded 104 yards on 7 attempts, with a 73-yard touchdown against TTU. Kelly also rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts against Missouri. John Kelly capped off his great season by putting up 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts, in the Vols win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
John Kelly will be relied upon this season to show he can take an SEC workload as the starting running back. His toughness is undeniable, and speed is unmatched, both will be critical to form a consistent offensive threat for the Vols.
Sophomore RB Carlin Fils-Aime will most likely be the backup running back for the Vols this fall. Fils-Aime on-field college experience amounts to 14 rushing attempts, 58 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The 5’11”, 175-pound back was a 4-star prospect according to 247sports.com coming out of high school in Naples, Florida. With not a lot of college experience under his belt, Fils-Aime needs a good spring to prove himself as a solid backup to the more experienced John Kelly.
Tennessee’s next best running back would be incomer Ty Chandler. Chandler joins the Vols as a part of the 2017 recruiting class. He was one of the best recruits coach Butch Jones brought in this year. Chandler attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee at the Montgomery Bell Academy. During his high school years, Chandler racked up 6,158 total rushing yards, 92 rushing touchdowns, and 102 total touchdowns. Chandler was in a whole other league than his peers in the high school ranks! Chandler has huge potential at the college level, something that Tennessee needs at the running back position.
Tennessee also brought in running backs Trey Coleman and Timothy Jordan as a part of the 2017 recruiting class. They too have big play-making potential at the college level. Their roles in the backfield will most likely come later down the road once they have more experience. But, don’t count them out to get some playing time.
Other running backs on Tennessee’s roster include Jayson Sparks, Taeler Dowdy, Stedman Love, and Chip Omer, all of which have little to no playing time at the college level. They are unlikely to compete for the top running back spots, but could see the field at some point in the 2017 season.
Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel