7. Health of Vols’ running backs
We’ve discussed at length how one of the biggest misconceptions of Josh Heupel’s offense is his utilization of the running game. Sure, he likes big plays in the passing game, but he sets it up by running the ball a lot. Combining that with tempo is part of a design to tire out the defensive line early on and take control of the game.
Last week, against Bowling Green, Tennessee football had two 100-yard rushers in Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans. However, Evans now may not be a go, and on Thursday, Heupel did not comment on his availability, which could be a huge problem going forward.
Although Jaylen Wright or one of the power backs could step in, Evans and Small made a great one-two punch. The way they run hard makes them the perfect backs to set up Heupel’s offense, and without one of them, you could have a major issue.
Against Pitt, it’s even more crucial for the Vols to be able to establish the running game, and without Evans, they could have a hard time doing that. Heck, even if Evans is banged up, it could be tough. Wright can’t be as physical and likely doesn’t have the blocking schemes down yet. Dee Beckwith and Len’Neth Whitehead can’t make enough big plays. Watch out for this problem.