Butch Jones on Tennessee's freshmen RBs: 'All three of them are going to play'
Tennessee’s backfield is in a season of transition after losing three of the program’s top four rushers from last year. The Vols know what they are getting out of junior John Kelly, but the next leading rusher from last season was receiver Tyler Byrd, and he had only eight carries for 63 yards.
Luckily for Tennessee, running back is a spot on the field where true freshmen annually make their presence known immediately. Just over a week into fall camp, the three true freshmen running backs on the roster — Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman — have proven enough that head coach Butch Jones has confidence in each of them seeing the field this season.
“All three of them are going to play,” Jones said following Tuesday’s practice. “I think they’re pushing John Kelly and John Kelly is doing a great job also of bringing energy and teaching them the expectations. We’ve been very excited, very encouraged with all three. All three are going to have to play and they’re going to be very important to the success of our season.”
While the Vols have added depth at the position from sophomore Carlin Fils-aime, the trio of freshmen received the majority of praise from Jones just over a week into camp.
“I continue to see them getting better and better and not just in terms of running the football but in pass protection and also playing out on the perimeter, as well,” Jones added.
Should any of the freshmen have a large role on the team their first season on campus, Kelly deserves credit for easing their transition to the college game. Following the departure of Alvin Kamara and Joshua Dobbs this offseason, Kelly has quickly emerged as one of the offense’s biggest leaders and has clearly taken the job seriously this offseason.
Something Jones also acknowledged following the team’s latest practice.
“John Kelly has done a great job of mentoring them. We talk about the difference between being a rusher and being a running back. A running back in our offense has to have a number of different skill sets. It starts not only with the ability to run the football but taking care of the football but also what we ask of them in the throw game and the pass protection game,” Jones continued. “They’ve handled (everything thrown at them) exceptionally well.”