1. Can the running backs succeed on short-yardage predictable plays?
This was the most frustrating thing for every Tennessee football fan the past five years. Butch Jones’s ridiculous spread made short-yardage plays far too difficult to get. Tyson Helton and Jeremy Pruitt have said multiple times they want their guys to be able to convert plays 3rd and 2 and 4th and 1 even when the other defense knows what’s coming.
Part of this comes to better offensive line coaching, and with more power backs in the system, it should be more likely. But it’s still a major question because things like this cost the Vols at least five games under Jones.
2. How often will the running backs be used in the passing game?
Butch Jones was actually pretty good about utilizing the running backs in the passing game. With a few questions at receiver, the Vols will likely want to continue that trend this year. They have too much talent not to.
Ty Chandler has proven what he can do with the ball in open space, and running backs catching balls really diversifies the offense. Given the complexities of Tyson Helton’s coaching style, coming from the Bobby Petrino/Jeff Brohm system, running backs in the passing game will be crucial. So they need to be able to come through there.
3. Will the running backs be a strength for the Vols offense in 2018?
Tennessee football clearly has unproven talent at quarterback, wide receiver, and on the offensive line. That obviously makes for a ton of questions, especially in the passing game. The running game, surprisingly, is a little more certain even with the departure of John Kelly.
So the Vols will count on guys like Madre London and Jeremy Banks to wear defenses down. And they’ll need guys like Ty Chandler to make explosive plays. If they can’t do those things, the offense could be in for a rough year.