Tennessee football: Five concerning signs from 2021 spring practice

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Tennessee running back Jabari Small (20) runs the ball as Tennessee linebacker Morven Joseph (19) defends at the Orange & White spring game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, April 24, 2021.
Kns Vols Spring Game

With a new head coaching bringing a high-powered offense to Rocky Top, excitement was the storyline for Tennessee football this past spring. Josh Heupel may be inheriting a mess, and the NCAA investigation into the Vols leaves the entire season in doubt, but everybody is at least expecting a fun ride out of the year.

A high-scoring spring game further suggested this will be a fun ride and, along with spring ball altogether, brought plenty of more reasons for excitement. However, it also brought up a few reasons for concern. Some were expected, but some became a bit of a surprise.

As if there weren’t enough negatives to deal with on Rocky Top right now, we’re going to break down the concerns about the program that were revealed in March and April. Some of these things can be corrected, but it looks like many will be a staple of the 2021 season. These are the five most worrying signs surrounding Tennessee football’s spring practice under Heupel.

5. Rushing attack was never dominant.

To be fair, Jaylen Wright was showing flashes as a freshman, and Tiyon Evans was banged up. Jabari Small, the one returning back who saw a decent bit of action last year for the Vols, was the main guy in the spring and drew lots of rave reviews for his play. He had two touchdowns in the Orange and White game.

However, Small averaged less than five yards a carry in that game. Also, he was the only standout back at a position loaded with young talent, including guys like Dee Beckwith, Len’Neth Whitehead and Tee Hodge.

Heupel’s offense, despite being known for its tempo and passing attack, is driven by an elite rushing game, usually with a balance between an all-purpose back and a power back. Evans could help provide that, but right now, with all of the running backs on the roster, Tennessee football doesn’t appear to have enough yet to make the offense go.

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