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Chandler’s abilities critical if Vols are to turn season around

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 2:12 pm

AUBURN, Ala. — Tennessee has made no secret about its desire to get the football in Ty Chandler’s hands as often as possible.

Chandler came into last Saturday’s game at No. 21 Auburn as the Vols’ top rusher. The 5-11 sophomore continued to shoulder a heavy load in the run game but is also an important part in the passing game. He entered Saturday’s contest against the Tigers fifth in the conference in yards per carry. He was the leading rusher once more as he carried the ball 16 times for 50 yards.

Even though Chandler was relatively quiet on the ground, his play in the first five games of the year forced Auburn to crowd the box to try and stop him. That allowed Tennessee to open up the game through the air as Jarrett Guarantano threw to nine different receivers and torched the Tigers for 322 passing yards. Chandler got in on the passing action as he caught 5 balls for 62 yards which included a 42-yard touchdown. He led the Volunteers with 112 all-purpose yards against the Tigers.

In the season opener against West Virginia, Chandler left the game with an injury and sat out the ETSU game the next week to recover. He bounced back in a big way the next week against Texas-El Paso as he carried the rock 12 times for 158 yards and a score. His performance against the Miners was the most since Josh Dobbs ran for 190 against Missouri in 2016 and Chandler’s 81-yard touchdown reception was the longest by a UT player since LaMarcus Coker hauled in an 87-yarder in 2006 against Vanderbilt.

Chandler ran 19 times against Florida but the Gators’ defense limited him to 16 total yards. Then came his performance against Georgia. Playing in front of a hostile crowd in the home of the second-ranked Bulldogs, Chandler led the Volunteers in both rushing and receiving. He had 27 yards rushing on 5 carries but caught 4 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown which was his first career scoring reception.

Special teams was a place Chandler found success last year as he had 17 kickoff returns for 416 yards which was an average of 24.5 per game. He produced a highlight reel-type play in a game against Indiana State last season as he took the opening kickoff and zipped 91 yards for the score. This year, however, Chandler has not seen a lot of action on special teams as he had one kickoff return for 17 yards against West Virginia.

Chandler’s ability to show a great deal of versatility through both the run and pass game allows Tennessee to open up the offense even more and keep opponents guessing. That was on display on Saturday as the 30-24 win over the No. 21-ranked Tigers greatly improves the Vols’ chances of reaching six wins and a bowl game. Maintaining that momentum will be important as Chandler and Tennessee enter the second half of their schedule.