KNOXVILLE — True freshman running back Ty Chandler made the best of his opportunity as the starting running back last week for Tennessee.

It was his time to step up with suspended junior running back John Kelly staying behind in Knoxville after receiving a citation for marijuana possession.

Chandler, a Nashville native, posted career highs with 120 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.

In fact, Chandler’s 120 rushing yards at Kentucky are the second most by an SEC true freshman in 2017 conference play, behind only Florida’s Malik Davis, who ran for 124 yards against Vanderbilt.

Chandler’s second-quarter touchdown snapped a Vols’ offensive scoreless streak that had reached 15 quarters.

“Everyone was excited to see that,” Chandler said. “I was pumped and excited for it because it was my first rushing touchdown. It brought a lot of energy and confidence to the team.”

First-year Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott likes what he sees in Chandler so far.

“It’s about time for that light to start to really come on for him,” Scott said. “The game is starting to slow down for him now.”

Chandler has 49 carries for 238 yards and two touchdowns, nine receptions for 101 yards, and nine kickoff returns for 254 yards (28.2 yards per return, second in the SEC). He had a 91-yard return on the opening kickoff against Indiana State.

“You’re starting to see flashes of his natural talent level come through,” Scott says.

Credit: Dan Harralson, Saturday Down South

Chandler credits running backs coach Robert Gillespie for helping him get acclimated quickly at Tennessee.

“He comes in and pushes us every day to make sure we are ready,” Chandler said. “When our name and number are called, we have to go out and perform.”

Chandler says he knew circumstances had created an opportunity for him against Kentucky, and he wanted to take full advantage of it. He certainly did. Those who have been following him closely during his first months as a Vol are not surprised.

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Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.