KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Volunteers football team is 11 practices into 2018 fall camp and head coach Jeremy Pruitt sees his running back unit bonding in the midst of competing every day.
Pruitt said Tennessee’s tailbacks are all working hard following Wednesday’s practice at Haslam Field.
“All of these guys at running back, they’ve really done a good job kind of bonding together,” Pruitt said. “I see them competing out there every day and I see a closeness in that group that I like…They’re trying to perfect their craft and they’re doing a good job with ball security and a good job in protections — all of them.”
Tennessee’s running back unit features returning sophomores Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman as well as newcomers Madre London, a graduate transfer from Michigan State, and true freshman Jeremy Banks.
Redshirt freshman Princeton Fant has also seen time at running back this fall in addition to practicing with the tight ends this week.
Chandler is the Vols’ leading returning rusher after totaling 305 yards and two touchdowns on the ground last fall. He captured SEC Freshman of the Week honors after taking the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Indiana State. Chandler rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky, as well.
Jordan played in all 12 games a year ago, showing he could excel on the ground (11 carries, 52 yards) and as a pass catcher (eight receptions for 65 yards). Coleman played in four games.
London brings the most experience to the unit after four years with the Spartans. Following a redshirt season in 2014, the Little Rock, Ark., native rushed for 924 yards and eight touchdowns on 230 carries from 2015-17.
“Madre is very mature,” Pruitt said. “He really fits in nicely with these guys.
“When you see guys that are new in the program that weren’t here in the spring that are picking things up, you know that they’ve had help from some of the guys that have been here before, and I think that’s a good sign.”
Another newcomer expected to help contribute in a unit filled with solid options is junior tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson. The Spring Valley, Calif., native was the nation’s No. 1 junior college tight end prospect at Arizona Western Community College. He joins veterans Eli Wolf and Austin Pope in the tight end room.
“Dom is a bigger body than the other guys we’ve got,” Pruitt said. “He’s got soft hands. He’s learning what’s going on. He’s learning how to practice, how we want to do things, so he’s doing a good job.”
Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Post-Practice Quotes
“We went out there and had a good day in special teams today. I thought our guys kicked the ball well and I thought that our operations were a lot better, we’ve been focusing on those a lot more over the past few weeks to try to clean some things up and get the guys in the right spots. We started off repping four teams in every group because we have so many new guys out there that didn’t do much in the spring. After 10 days you start trying to reevaluate and see who you think would possibly be somebody that gets on the bus and get guys into the right spots. So I think our guys have done a really good job out there with that. Practice is still inconsistent. We have a lot of periods that are really competitive with guys trying to strain and doing exactly what we want them to do, and then we have some times in practices where it’s not so good. So we have to focus on being consistent. We have a lot of guys that have come a long ways as far as knowledge and figuring out exactly what they’re supposed to do at their position. We have to continue to grow as a team and learn to play together, but there’s a lot of positives out there.”
On what he learned from Sunday’s scrimmage after reviewing it:
“There’s lots of things that you don’t see live. On film, you get to see things from the back end, so you can watch the interior lineman and you get to see guys in their stances and how they finish. You start with sideline organization on both sides of the ball. Where are their eyes at? Do they line up correctly? Are they in the correct stance? Do they play with the right technique? And you get to see exactly what kind of competitive toughness did they play with. Were they relentless? Did they play hard all the time? You can’t see all of that from just standing out there and watching practice. Sometimes you can feel some people playing that way, but you don’t know if they do it all the time until you watch the tape.”
On the Madre London and the running back position as a whole:
“Madre is very mature. He really fits in nicely with these guys. All of these guys at running back, they’ve really done a good job kind of bonding together. I see them competing out there every day and I see a closeness in that group that I like. You throw in Jeremy Banks and Trey Coleman along with Tim Jordan and Ty Chandler, and those guys work hard. They’re trying to perfect their craft and they’re doing a good job with ball security and a good job in protections — all of them. When you see guys that are new in the program that weren’t here in the spring that are picking things up, you know that they’ve had help from some of the guys that have been here before, and I think that’s a good sign.”
On what Dominick Wood-Anderson has done to stand out in camp so far:
“Dom is a bigger body than the other guys we’ve got. He’s got soft hands. He’s learning what’s going on. He’s learning how to practice, how we want to do things, so he’s doing a good job.”
On Darrin Kirkland:
Darrin (Kirkland) had a knee injury in the fall so protocol after going so many days you want to give him a day off. He is not the only one we have had a couple guys that are like that and it is no different from any place that I have been. When you get guys in camp you want to make sure you have them for the start of the season and he just needed a day off.
On if the team has started preparing for West Virginia:
“I don’t think anybody works on an opponent this early. Everyone is working on themselves, so we are working on Tennessee. There will be a point later on in camp when we start focusing on West Virginia specifically. Every day, we take a period or two and focus on things that other teams are doing that maybe we don’t do just to familiarize our players with it.”
On identifying playmakers on offense:
“You see guys out there making plays, but the thing about it is are they making plays because they have talent or maybe the guy they’re going against didn’t know what to do or maybe had a mental error. I have seen some guys that have run with the ball well after the catch, but we are still working towards that. We need some other guys to step up.”
On the competition at secondary:
“Secondary is one of those positions that if you have guys that can play you aren’t wanting to take them out of the game because it only takes them one time to mess up and the other team could score points. We want to find the guys that know how we want them to play, can get lined up, make the calls, understands formations, play the ball and is a good tackler. There are lots of good competition out there, and every day, somebody else shows up and someone won’t perform like they need to. We need guys who are consistent.”