Research isn't required to appreciate Derek Dooley's commitment to size. An eye test will suffice.
Tennessee's third-year coach has built a bigger football team. Some of his defensive ends look like nose tackles, and some of his linebackers look like defensive ends.
But his rebuilding job can't be measured solely on a set of scales. Last year's Arkansas game was a reminder of that.
Among the glaring differences between the teams was Arkansas' offensive speed contrasted with UT's lack of speed on defense. The Vols could neither pressure quarterback Tyler Wilson nor keep up with Arkansas' receivers, even when the receiver was 215-pound running back Dennis Johnson.
When UT football was really rolling, its defense was leading the way — in a hurry. I can still see defensive tackle John Henderson chase down a ball carrier 50 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Now, the Vols can't catch anybody from Arkansas with a ball under his arm.
The decline in speed on defense isn't a one-season phenomenon. It's years in the making. And it's exacerbated in a conference famous for fast defenses.
Dooley was asked after Tuesday morning's practice if someone watching
videotape of his defense would immediately conclude "That's an SEC defense."
"When you say an 'SEC defense,' there are 14 teams in the league now," he said. "Let's face it. There are some tiers. You look at the top 10 teams in the nation defensively, and there's three or four 4 SEC teams."
Alabama, LSU and South Carolina finished first through third nationally in team defense last season. UT was 27th, a respectable ranking given the team's limitations.
But Dooley wasn't impressed.
"The bigger issue for me: 'Are you impacting the game?' That's something I didn't think we did at all last year."
More speed might help. So will the new 3-4 alignment, according to linebacker A.J. Johnson.
"The offense really doesn't know where we're coming from," Johnson said. "I get to blitz a lot more. I see myself being able to get to the quarterback."
If any Vol can get to the quarterback, that will qualify as spectacular progress. Tennessee was tied for 100 nationally in sacks last season. It also was tied for 91st in turnovers gained.
Each statistical ranking backs up Dooley's contention that the defense didn't make enough happen last season. The most relevant question: How much better can it be this go-round?
It will be bigger. You can't be so sure about the speed — from the front line to the secondary. Incoming recruits could accelerate the process. So could the development of younger players.
Rising sophomore cornerback Justin Coleman came up for discussion after Tuesday's practice. Dooley's response was encouraging for a secondary whose starting positions aren't all settled.
"He has gone up the whole spring," Dooley said. "He has got everything you want at the cornerback position — height, weight, speed, athleticism, ball skills. And he's taking coaching better than he ever has."
Dooley believes the defense is picking up speed overall, too. But he has a higher speed in mind.
"If you can't get the big guys, you better at least have speed," he said. "You gotta have something."