Tennessee is looking to recapture its glory from the 1990s. Join us daily at SEC Country for the latest Tennessee recruiting news and notes on the next crop of Volunteers. Check out previous editions here. In this edition, we discuss Tennessee adding its ideal running back and are realistic expectations from the commitment.
Hard-nosed running backs
Tennessee added an intriguing commitment Sunday night when Michigan State graduate transfer Madre London announced in a tweet he plans to join the Vols this season. London’s decision gives the Vols coaching staff the hard-nosed running back it desired.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound London is the type of running back Tennessee fans should get used to seeing. Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton wants a power running game that can pick up tough yards between the tackles. London played in a similar scheme for the Spartans. There shouldn’t be too much of learning curve when he gets on campus this summer.
Tennessee signed Class of 2018 running back Jeremy Banks, who fits this same mold. He is a 6-2, 225-pound bruiser who will fight through contact. It’s clear the coaching staff wasn’t comfortable giving the tough SEC carries to a freshman.
The coaching staff wants to open up running lanes with a strong offensive line and use big running backs who are tough for defensive backs to bring down.
How London and Banks fit into the running back rotation will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow for the Vols in 2018.
Sophomore Ty Chandler seemed ready to take the leading role for the Vols. His 5-11, 195-pound frame is better suited for the spread offense Tennessee ran under the last staff.
Chandler is the most talented back on the roster and has breakaway speed, which is important for an offense that might lack big-play ability. But the coaching staff seems to have concerns about his body handling the burden they want to place on the running backs.
A platoon could make sense to keep each player fresh late in the season.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt has turned what could have been a weakness — after John Kelly decided to turn pro — into a strength with depth.
Winning recruiting battles
Pruitt was brought to Tennessee with the expectation of winning recruiting battles like London’s. This has been a mixed bag for Pruitt since he arrived on Rocky Top.
Getting London to choose Tennessee over Georgia, Oregon, Southern Cal and Louisville is a win. So was securing a commitment from graduate-transfer quarterback Keller Chryst.
Pruitt might be picking up some momentum, which makes sense. He’s excellent at building relationships and those take time. He is showing that with more time to connect with recruits he can secure commitments.
Helton will have a lot of freedom to run the offense, but it was Pruitt’s vision for the team that won over London.
“I like where Coach Pruitt is taking the program,” London told SEC Country’s Mike Griffith. “I know what Coach Pruitt is capable of from his days coaching at Alabama.”
Pruitt being able to sell his vision and capitalize on relationships is important for the Class of 2019. This class and the Class of 2020 are the most pivotal cycles for Pruitt.
Expectations for grad transfers
One of the most common questions I’ve received during the last few weeks concerns graduate transfers and how they might fit in. How much do graduate transfers really help teams, especially at running back?
I took a look at all the grad-transfer running backs who went to Power 5 schools in the last four years. Only six did anything of note for their new teams.
|2016||Barry Sanders Jr.||Oklahoma State||28||93||2|
|2015||Patrick Skov||Georgia Tech||94||380||6|
There isn’t much of a track record of success. The good news is that none of this has any bearing on how London might fare with the Vols. He will be the most experienced back at the position with a strong understanding of how a pro-style offense works.
It’s fair to expect London to provide depth at the position and help Chandler learn the new system. London likely will get some carries in short-yardage situations. I still expect Chandler to be the lead back in 2018.
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