Tennessee football: Vols need Jeremy Banks back at running back

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 29: Jeremy Banks #33 of the Tennessee Volunteers carries the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs on September 29, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 29: Jeremy Banks #33 of the Tennessee Volunteers carries the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs on September 29, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

With so few conversions on short-yardage plays, Tennessee football needs a power running back. The Volunteers need to move Jeremy Banks back over there.

Sometimes you wonder how often coaches outsmart themselves. That seems to be an issue this year with Tennessee football, as the coaching staff is trying to find a creative way to fix an issue that has a simple answer.

Through two games, the Vols have been having issues on short-yardage plays similar to last year. They failed to convert a 3rd and 1 and a 3rd and 2 against the Georgia State Panthers. Then, against the BYU Cougars, they failed to convert on two 4th and 1 running plays while also coming up short on a couple of 3rd and 3 plays.

Now, part of that was due to injuries at running back in the second game, as Tim Jordan and Carlin Fils-Aime were both out. They should be back this week. Meanwhile, the development of Tennessee football’s interior line is another big part of that. But the biggest part of it is the Vols don’t have a power back.

So on Wednesday, Jeremy Pruitt said the Vols have a couple of linebackers they can use in Jeremy Banks and Quavaris Crouch on short-yardage plays. All of a sudden, that’s touted as a creative idea, similar to how Jim Chaney and Derek Dooley used A.J. Johnson back in 2012.

Here’s the problem. JEREMY BANKS WAS RECRUITED AS A FOUR-STAR RUNNING BACK! How is this being creative? The issue was Pruitt out-thinking himself to begin with by moving Banks over to linebacker. Notice when he did that, the Vols began to struggle with positioning at linebacker  while they also began to struggle on short-yardage plays.

Taking that into account, why not move Banks back to running back full-time, especially with Daniel Bituli getting healthy? This is the most obvious decision in the history of decision-making by coaches, and we’re somehow acting like this is a level of thinking outside the box.

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At 6’1″ 225 pounds, Banks is the perfect power back UT doesn’t have. He had 52 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. Sure, there was a fumbling issue, but he was a freshman who ran hard. Did Pruitt honestly believe that he was going to continue to have that problem? That’s a ridiculous position to take.

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Banks is clearly a running back. And putting him back there is the most obvious move possible. Pruitt said before last season that he likes to run a by-committee system. That includes one all-purpose back, a fundamental back and a power back.

Right now, the Vols have two all-purpose backs in Eric Gray and Ty Chandler. They have fundamental backs in Jordan and Fils-Aime. But because he has kept Banks over at linebacker, a position switch that was made midway through last year, he has no power back after the graduation of Madre London.

Why can’t Pruitt make up his mind with Banks? It’s flat-out ridiculous, and putting him back at running back is completely obvious. If he wants to move Crouch there for this year while he develops to have another power option, that’s fine. But there’s no reason for Banks not to be playing there and in on every short-yardage play.

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If Banks was at running back the whole time, Tennessee football may have beaten Georgia State, and they almost certainly would have converted those two fourth down plays against BYU, which would have won them that game. Pruitt not being consistent with where he plays is costing his development, and it’s costing the Vols.