As Tennessee football prepares for its homecoming game versus Southern Mississippi this Saturday, Caleb Souders and Ben McKee discuss whether Ty Chandler should start this weekend for the Volunteers. Chandler, a true freshman, turned in a phenomenal performance last Saturday in the absence of John Kelly who was suspended. In light of his performance, Chandler is set to receive more carries, but should he be the starter?
Souders: Chandler should get the start. Butch Jones has been selling starting spots to freshman since he arrived in Knoxville with his mantra “Brick by brick,” but Jones has misused several big time recruits. Tyler Byrd is the prime example of this. Kelly is the undoubted leader of this team, nobody is questioning his leaderships reps — besides maybe Butch Jones — but maybe this team should get a slap in the face. Chandler had a big day against Kentucky, and shouldn’t struggle versus Southern Mississippi.
McKee: John Kelly should be starting going forward. He served his suspension and met the guidelines that were set before him in order to return. Yes, many freshmen have started for Jones during his tenure in Knoxville, but it’s because they had to. If the roster would not have been as depleted when Jones took over, then most of the freshmen who started, probably wouldn’t have. Derek Barnett started because there was no other defensive end to challenge him. Jalen Hurd started because he was the best running back on campus when he arrived. Josh Malone struggled as a true freshman, but still started because of how depleted the receiver position was.
So should Chandler start at running back this weekend? Absolutely not. Kelly is the best football player on the team, and in order for the Vols to make a bowl game, they need to ride their workhorse. This is no diss to Chandler, as he proved against Kentucky that he is capable of being the starter. However, when you have a guy like Kelly on your team, and you’re struggling to win football games, you start him.
Souders: There is no shortage of running backs in Knoxville, as running backs coach Robert Gillespie has constructed a nice stable. Kelly, Chandler and Carlin Fils-Aime have all shown bright flashes this season, and I personally believe any of them could get the start any given week. If Kelly hadn’t done his time sitting behind Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, there is a chance he wouldn’t have been gifted the starting role immediately anyways.
That might sound a little harsh on my end, but all of the running backs on this roster average nearly the same amount of yards. Kelly, as great as he has been this season, has 80 more carries than the next leading rusher Ty Chandler, yet John Kelly’s longest run is only 38 yards. Fils-Aime averages 6.1 yards per carry and his longest run is 30 yards. These are small sample sizes, but there is no denying each of these tailbacks can probably get the job done on any given Saturday.
McKee: There’s no doubting the talent that Tennessee has in the backfield. We didn’t even mention freshman Tim Jordan who has impressed coaches early on in his career, and showed some promise against Kentucky last weekend. However, you’re forgetting one key note to those stats you mentioned above.
Kelly has done it against the big boys, whereas Chandler, Fils-aime and Jordan against weaker competition. Yes, the three youngsters have broke off some nice runs this season, but they’ve come against the likes of teams such as Indiana State, UMass, South Carolina and Kentucky. Kelly has gotten the job done against Georgia Tech, Florida and Alabama.
For example, Chandler has nice runs against the Gators. But if Tennessee beats Florida, Kelly’s performance against the Gators is something that Vol fans would be talking about for years to come. Kelly has proven he can get it done against the best of the best. The youngsters are talented, but if Tennessee wants to make a bowl game, they’ll have to ride Kelly. It’s a good problem to have, but Kelly has served the suspension that was given to him. Now ride with him.
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports