The loss of Ty Chandler and Eric Gray in the transfer portal to the North Carolina Tar Heels and Oklahoma Sooners respectively should be a huge blow to Tennessee football on paper. These two elite running backs were the top two offensive producers for the Vols last year.
However, a strong collection of young but unproven running backs added in the 2020 and 2021 classes can help offset that. Indeed, early on in Josh Heupel’s first spring training some of them start to stand out.
Reports the first week of the spring ball were that Tiyon Evans, a junior college 2021 signer, made an impression early on. A four-star at 247Sports and ESPN, Evans is a complete running back at 5’11 “220lbs. Offensive coordinator Alex Golesh described him as a” shorter “back with still a ton of athleticism.
Short power backs aren’t the only thing Tennessee football has, though. The Vols also have great strength back in Dee Beckwith, who was expected to play receiver as an athlete in the 2020 class. At 6’5 ″ 227 pounds, however, he has had to run back all the time.
On Tuesday, Mack praised Beck for learning the “finer” details of playing the position, particularly his leverage on the pad given his size. Beckwith’s intelligence was also touted, which is a big deal for a running back who must have a good view and an understanding of the offense.
Then there are the universal ridges. Jabari Small is back after carrying the ball 26 times for 117 yards and getting four passes for 24 yards last year. Mack has loved him too, describing him as a boy “born to run back” at 5’11 “206 pounds.
Add Jaylen Wright to the early enrollment and you have a 5’11 “200lb elite speedster. Mack has already praised Wright’s speed at college level which is a big deal. He just seems to need the game. have to slow down for him.
This allows for two powerbacks and two multipurpose backs that combine elite speed, vision, power and experience in the case of Evans as a junior college transfer. Between these four you can find the correct one-two punch in Heupel’s system, and his offense depends on both types of backs.
If, by chance, only one or none of those guys comes out, Len’Neth Whitehead and Tee Hodge are both power backs still in the system. According to reports, Whitehead, another athlete, is still determined to run back
Keeping Whitehead and Beckwith there may raise some concern about how deep Tennessee football really is on the position, but it could be that the Vols are just experimenting at this point. After all, despite the bodies and the potential, little has been proven among these guys.
In the future, Heupel will probably find the perfect combination among this group. Evans and Small seem to be the favorites right now in a two-backup set as the other guys develop, but there’s plenty of room to find depth behind those guys.
Assuming those two work, Tennessee football may be much more capable of running back than initially thought. That Evans could stand out as an early spring performer is a good sign for the program. All signs suggest that Small is doing the same. As a result, this team would be able to get into the backfield just fine.
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