Defensive line under pressure to get more sacks

Tennessee's Willie Bohannon (86) celebrates sacking Florida's John Brantley (12) during the Vols' 33-23 road loss Sept. 17

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011

Tennessee's Willie Bohannon (86) celebrates sacking Florida's John Brantley (12) during the Vols' 33-23 road loss Sept. 17

An explanation isn't hard for Willie Bohannon to produce.

The Tennessee defensive line has faced two spread offenses designed to get the football out quick, followed by another that was able to slow down a pass rush with the threat of using its speedy running backs.

That justification isn't hard to swallow for the junior defensive end. But it doesn't exactly make looking at the stats sheet and seeing just a handful of sacks any easier as UT prepares for a home date against Buffalo on Saturday (TV: CSS, 12:30 p.m.).

"They've all been trying to get on our edges the whole time," Bohannon said. "(Defensive line coach Lance) Thompson tells us every day we've got to keep patient, keep rushing and it's going to open up. But you've got to keep playing hard or else you're going to miss your opportunity.

"You want to get them, you always want to get them, you always want to think to yourself, 'That's a sack right there.' But you don't really harp on it. As long as it was a negative play for the offense and a positive play for us, it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. Everybody is going to look good when the defense is doing good."

For the most part on defense, the Vols (2-1, 0-1 SEC) can't collectively be accused of looking too bad during the first month of the season. And Bohannon hasn't been shabby, either, particularly since he can point to one of UT's three sacks so far.

But averaging just one takedown on the quarterback per game won't turn many heads, and at this early point of the season the Vols rank just 98th in the country in that category. Certainly that's a product of the teams they've faced and offenses that don't allow much time for pressure to develop in the pocket, which is one important reason defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox isn't using that as a gauge of how his unit is playing up front.

"We really look at it by opportunities," Wilcox said. "How many times are they in the drop-back game where we could have a chance to affect the quarterback? There have been times where we've had chances to do it and haven't. There have also been times where we have affected him.

"It's not obviously where we want it, probably never will be, and we need to get better and better at that. It's really knowing the down-and-distance, knowing where the protection is going to be, knowing where the back is, that's how you create pressure."

There could be some opportunities to supply it for the Bulls (1-3, 0-1 MAC), a team that has allowed seven sacks this season and gave up three in a loss last week to Connecticut.

And while the Vols clearly would like to leave Neyland Stadium with some to show for their work against Buffalo, that won't be the sole measurement of success.

"They're going to be like every other team, fast-paced, trying to get the ball on the edges really fast with bubbles and a lot of screens," Bohannon said. "I really feel like if you're not doing superb at one part, you've got to do good somewhere. At least we've been doing that as far as stopping the run and playing the run really good.

"If we were not playing the run and not getting sacks, then everybody would be like, 'What is the defensive line there for?' At least we have some positives about it."

Risk and Returns: Da'Rick Rogers can handle kickoffs just fine. But since there hasn't been anything worth getting really excited about just yet, the Vols are no longer in a position to risk putting the sophomore on the field if somebody else can match his output.

The loss of Justin Hunter to torn ligaments in his knee have put more focus on Rogers to become the go-to receiver, which is forcing UT to go to somebody else on kickoffs — either Marlin Lane or a freshly healthy Devrin Young.

"Da'Rick is a big, fast, straight-line guy, but if you lose Justin Hunter and now you have one experienced, big, physical guy — are we gaining that much more with him on kickoff return than we are with Marlin Lane or Devrin?" special teams coordinator Eric Russell said. "So far the results would say not really."

Think Pink: The start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month coincides with kickoff for the Vols, and the program is taking advantage of the calendar to show its support for the effort on Saturday.

Among the activities planned in conjunction with the game, six breast cancer survivors and a guest will be on the sideline before the game, pink pompoms will be available in exchange for donations and a mobile mammography unit will be located at Staff Lot 5 between Thompson-Boling Arena and the G-10 parking garage.

"We just want everyone to be aware there are resources available," Dr. Allison Dooley, wife of UT coach Derek Dooley, said in a release.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 7

wagee12 writes:

Bohannon looks like the best option opposite Smith on the defensive front. Neither Walls or Martin have demonstrated any ability to rush the passer.

HtownVol writes:

I see J Smith eventually being one of the better sack producing DL in the SEC in the future.
After Smith the rest reflects what all Vol fans know,. we need to start getting quality D-Linemen.
Last nights commit helps but it is far from where we need to be.
I am happy with the recruiting class so far but I really hope there is a major priority set on getting some of the top D-Linemen out there.
I would seriously think that some of them would see the opportunity at UT. UT produces 1st round D-Linemen almost every draft and right now UT offers maybe the best chance for playing time in the SEC.
Get them DL CDD and staff!
O, and please lock up the commits we have already (Santos!!!, Bowles, Cross, the Safety from Tx and all the rest)

GO VOLS

rabidvol1998 writes:

thanks for the Breast Cancer Awareness. My fiance' is fighting it. She will be attending the Georgia game, two days after chemo and bald. Tough woman!

MusicCityVol writes:

There are lots of things we need to accomplish against Buffalo in order to feel good about the next four games. It is going to be a stretch that would break most teams. Buffalo needs to be the spring board to better things.

Vandy>UConn>Buffalo Logic
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

Volunatic writes:

in response to rabidvol1998:

thanks for the Breast Cancer Awareness. My fiance' is fighting it. She will be attending the Georgia game, two days after chemo and bald. Tough woman!

Best wishes to your fiance in her fight.

BobbyGraham writes:

i hope Terrence Cody attends the game and takes the opportunity to have a mammogram.

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to BobbyGraham:

i hope Terrence Cody attends the game and takes the opportunity to have a mammogram.

questionable on taste, but funny ;-) I still have nightmares of those man-boobs blocking kicks.

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