The Tennessee Vols were picked to be the team to beat in the East to start the season. They had tons of returning talent and they had experience in the SEC on their team too. But unfortunately, things did not work the way they thought it would. The team currently is behind Florida in the SEC East and can only win the East with wins against Missouri and Vanderbilt coupled with a Florida loss to LSU. If that happens, they still represent the East. But if not, that further exasperates the disappointment that many feel with the Vols. There is a bunch of speculation as to what caused the issues. While no one knows the answer, one players voiced his dissatisfaction at Tennessee and decided to leave. After the embarrassing loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks, there were plenty that noticed running back Jalen Hurd did not have very many carries. Well, the news came out that Hurd was making the decision to transfer from Tennessee due to his unhappiness with how he was being used and also said about him being switched to wide receiver or tight end at his new stop. And with that, he was done as a Volunteer, leaving the team during the season. While losing a talent like that hurts, it actually may have helped the Volunteers offense.
One thing that Hurd wanted at Tennessee was a fullback. The 6'4", 240 pound running back felt that he was more of a running back that needed that type of running game and that Tennessee did not fit him there. But with him gone, the door was opened for running back John Kelly to get even more playing time. And since Hurd has been gone, it seems the running game has looked better. Of course the competition has not been excellent, but the way that Kelly attacks the line of scrimmage with his patient yet explosive style and the way that he finishes off runs makes him a better fit. You add what Kelly does with the things that Alvin Kamara, who returned this past Saturday versus Kentucky, and the Vols now have a solid 1-2 punch that gives defenses no breaks. In addition to the patience and explosiveness of both Kamara and Kelly, both can catch the football out of the backfield and make things happen. Now Hurd has solid hands and he hits the hole hard, but he does not possess the shiftiness that fits what this offense needs. And although he is one of the top rushers at Tennessee of all-time, the other two backs fit what he wants to do better.
But along with his absence being better for the team on the field, it is certainly better for them off of it. There has not been much said in regards to the thoughts that some of the players on this team will be entering the NFL draft after the season. But the reality is that there is a good majority that are thinking about their draft prospects when their time is coming near. Hurd did not speak on it until he left, but he obviously has been thinking about the NFL. And he has thought about it so much that he wants to go somewhere else and switch positions so he can be a better NFL prospect. When you have players that get so caught up in their ambitions that they lose sight of the team aspect, then a problem is coming. And that problem can spread throughout the team. Again, we don't know exactly what Hurd and his attitude was like, but we can only judge by what is being seen on the field the last two weeks in regards to the after-effect. The Vols seem a little bit looser offensively these days and that has reflected in how they have played as well. You see guys not only making plays but having fun on the field and not so serious as they once were.
The exit of Hurd was one that was received as a bad thing for the team when it first happened. But in the end, it may be what is best for the team. I wish Jalen well in all future endeavors that he tries to take on, but for whatever reason, it did not work out for him to finish his career at Tennessee. He is gone and the Vols have to move on. And quite frankly, it seems that they have moved on very well.