Last week, I began a six-week countdown/six-player preview to help ease our way into the 2019 Vols football season. The premise of this countdown/preview is simple: I will review six returning Vols from the 2018…debacle…who I believe have to have a better-than-average season in order for Tennessee to return to the postseason. The first article in this series covered defensive lineman Emmit Gooden (if you missed it, click here to check it out). Now I want to jump to the other side of the ball and look at the position that we all know is the SEC’s offensive calling card: running back.
The Vols trotted out five different running backs last season. None of them eclipsed 1,000 yards (which is not necessarily an end-all-be-all). Nary a one had over four rushing touchdowns. Nobody really took the reins out of the backfield. However, with all that being said, one player did stick out to me as being the most talented of the corps, and he is the next player we are going to take a deeper look at: Ty Chandler.
Who Is He:
- Name: Ty Chandler
- Position: Running Back
- Class: Junior
- Hometown: Nashville, TN
- Height/Weight: 5’11”/201 lbs.
What Has He Done for Us Lately:
Ty Chandler didn’t put up bad numbers in 2018, they just weren’t great. He toted the ball 115 times for 630 yards, giving him 5.5 yards per rush. He also rushed for 4 touchdowns. But that isn’t all Ty Chandler brings to the table; he is also a legitimate threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Chandler caught the ball 19 times for 183 yards (9.6 YPC) and three touchdowns. In total, Ty Chandler racked up 813 total offensive yards on his 134 touches—giving him approximately 6.1 yards per touch, and got into the checkerboards seven times. His seven touchdowns were good enough for most on the team in 2018 when the quarterback is not factored in.
Let’s Dive Deeper (WARNING—Lengthy/Potentially Convoluted):
Ty Chandler was a name a number of Tennesseans and UT fans alike already knew when he signed with the Vols.
Coming from the mid-state (Montgomery Bell Academy), Chandler compiled an impressive high school resume. Some notable awards/records on that resume:
- Two-time D II-AA Mr. Football
- Number seven in TSSAA history for rushing yards in a career with 6,158 yards
- Number three in TSSAA history for rushing touchdowns in a career with 92
- S. Army and MaxPreps All-American honors, among others.
I believe there are some valid reasons that Chandler’s numbers didn’t match or really even compare to his SEC counterparts’ stats. One of those reasons, and the most overarching, is the offensive coordinator and system. I am not here to bash Tyson Helton, but anyone who watched our offense last year could see that something just wasn’t quite right. While it may have been Pruitt overreaching, players not buying in, or even just a complete lack of skill left over from Butch Jones’ tenure, the fact remains that the Big Orange offense ranked 121st, or for comparison’s sake, tenth worst, in the country and absolute worst in the SEC at 318.5 yards per game. Ergo, Tyson Helton had to go.
The good news? We took a big Dobbs-Nail Boot to Georgia’s face, broke their nose (have you ever seen a Bulldog?), and landed Jim Chaney. I won’t go into all of the numerical details, but we Vol fans have seen how fun and productive a Chaney coached offense can be in Knoxville, as he was our OC from 2009-2012. Chaney also has shown that he makes an effort to feature his most talented players in his offenses. The latter is good news for Ty Chandler—he is probably the most talented player on the Vols’ roster.
Another reason Ty Chandler’s new OC may be helpful for him is his utilization. I am going to present my logic to you in numerical list form:
- In the SEC, Tennessee was the only team who did not have a top 20 rusher in total yards. Ty Chandler ranked number 21 with 630 yards.
- With his 115 rushing attempts, Chandler averaged 51.8 less rushing attempts than the 20 players ahead of him.
- Given his average of 5.5 yards per carry, if the Vols were to have given Chandler the top-20 average of 166 carries, he would have had 915 yards rushing. This would have been good enough for top-10 in the SEC.
The solution to this problem? Give Ty Chandler the ball more. While I think there is some place for fellow returning running back Tim Jordan in Tennessee’s future, I don’t think it should be in a role as prominent as the one Chandler should play. Jordan had 17 more carries than Chandler, more than 100 fewer yards, and averaged a full yard-and-a-half less than Chandler per carry. I think who we will see more of is pretty apparent.
Given the change in OC, Chaney’s propensity to feature those in his offense who need to be featured, and the OBVIOUS talent gap between Chandler and the rest, I believe #8 will have every opportunity to prove that he is Tennessee’s running back for the next two seasons. I also think that if he plays well and cracks the top ten with regard to SEC backs, that is another step for the Vols as a whole in making it back to the postseason. Another thought: two good seasons on Rocky Top in 2019 and again in 2020 could place him in the top five to ten running backs in U.T. history in rushing yards (he is only 65 shy of 1,000 with two full seasons left), as well as change his career trajectory towards a low round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
One More Out The Door:
Ty Chandler has an SEC running back lineage. His dad, Chico, was a running back at Ole Miss in the late 90s and early 2000s. Chico’s high school coach’s name was Rusty Funk. The name duo of Chico Chandler and Rusty Funk has so much potential it scares me. That is all.
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