Pretty much every position on the Tennessee offense is up for grabs this spring, as Josh Heupel and his staff figure out what they’ve got on this roster. A length list of transfers has opened things all the way up, even for a few freshmen that typically might not see chances at playing time this early on.
One of those newcomers that has generated a little bit of buzz has been freshman tailback Jaylen Wright, who committed to Tennessee as a three-star prospect. What makes Wright intriguing is his different style, which offers speed and agility — something Tennessee quite frankly doesn’t have much of after Eric Gray and Ty Chandler exited the program.
The 5-10, 190 pound athlete has a chance to make a splash as an offensive playmaker, especially with a new, offensive-minded staff in town.
“Jaylen, right now, is just really learning the speed of the game more than anything,” running backs coach Jerry Mack said. “He’s had some ups and he’s had some downs, but he sure has had a lot of flashes as well. When you talk about the ability to separate from people when he gets to the second level, the speed jumps out at you about him. He’s so dynamic when he gets to the second level, it’s really hard to catch him.”
The North Carolina native has a background in track and field and is looking to bring that speed to the SEC. Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans seem to be the top two guys at the position, but placing Wright in the backfield or even split out wide presents the defense with an entirely new set of issues to deal with.
“You can just tell, right now, even though he’s struggling here and struggling there, his flashes are big, huge flashes,” Mack said. “You can ask anybody on the field. When he gets to that next level and he gets an opportunity to get in space, he can make people miss. He’s still learning, more than anything, about college football and how we can’t bounce a lot of runs. We have to stay in between the tackles when we need to, and we have to trust that the offensive line is going to get their block. That’s just going to come with reps.”
Wright was the 648th ranked player in the class of 2021 and the 36th ranked player in the state of North Carolina, per 247Sports. He ran 89 times for 901 yards as a junior in high school, scoring five times.
Maybe this isn’t a guy you’re going to see a lot of this fall, but he’s at least in the picture as a gadget type player with homerun potential.