Vols Signees Will Be Thrust Into the Mix Quickly at Running Back
It was first reported by Travis Dorman of the Knoxville News Sentinel on Saturday afternoon that Tim Jordan had been arrested in his hometown of Lakeland (FL). Jordan now faces one felony charge for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, in addition to other drug-related charges. His status with Tennessee's program is questionable to say the least, but no ruling has been made yet. However, regardless of what happens, Jordan's incident will thrust Tennessee's freshman running backs into the spotlight.
Eric Gray and Ty Chandler are going to split carries in Tennessee's backfield this season, but Tim Jordan was expected to factor into the equation. Jordan, known for his tenacious running-style, earned carries in short-yardage situations and played a key role as a pass blocker for Tennessee. Jordan is a utility guy for Tennessee, and in the SEC, a third-string running back is as important as anyone in the stable. Now the Vols may have to turn to one of their freshmen signees to fill the void.
The competition in the room just got a lot stiffer, as a unique fall camp will determine early opportunities for the trio of freshmen. However, the Vols need one of these players to come into their own early and often, but who is it likely to be?
Len'neth Whitehead arrives to Knoxville as a top-150 prospect who has the ideal look to be a hammer for Tennessee. He measures in at 6'2, 230lbs, and is not afraid of contact. Whitehead could also have the opportunity to play linebacker, but if Jordan is not with the team anymore, he will likely spend more time at running back. The biggest con for Whitehead is he is coming off of an injury that cut his senior season short, while he is fully healthy, he could still need a lot of time to adjust to SEC speed. Whitehead played his high school ball in a low-level private school setting in Georgia, and not to knock him, as he dominated the way he was supposed to, but he may need time to adjust in Knoxville.
Jabari Small is the swiss army knife of the group. He can play various roles in Tennessee's offense and will see time on special teams early in his career. He will have the opportunity to see early carries, but his skill set is similar to that of Gray and Chandler. He is not the ideal complement to the duo, and this could limit his production in 2020.
Tee Hodge has the makings of being the third man up for the Vols this season. Hodge measures in at 6'1, 225lbs, and he is used to carrying a workload. Hodge starred for Maryville during his time for the local Rebels. His recruiting stock did not soar heading into his senior season after his junior season was ended by a broken right fibula. He quickly shaped back into form during his senior campaign, but the Vols already had his commitment locked down. Hodge's ability to run in between the tackles with consistency and serve as a bruising back bodes well for him heading into the camp setting.
Anyone of these incoming signees will get their opportunity to put a stronghold on the position early, but the Vols will have to have someone who can get those extra yards in crucial situations, as they will go into hostile territory week 2 against Oklahoma. The good news for the freshmen trio is that they are running behind an offensive line that is projected to be one of the best in the conference.