John Adams: UT's defense a fireable offense

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri calls to his players during the first half against Troy  Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Neyland Stadium.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri calls to his players during the first half against Troy Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Neyland Stadium. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

The smartest thing Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could have done Saturday afternoon was fire defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri at halftime.

Then, he could have had the public-address announcer pass along the uplifting news to a half-filled Neyland Stadium.

If that sounds harsh, consider the greater good. A defense that Troy ravaged for 721 yards and 34 first downs is about to get everybody fired.

In fact, it's a wonder that at some point in UT's 55-48 victory over Troy, athletic director Dave Hart didn't seize the microphone from public-address announcer Bobby Denton and declare that the search for UT's next football coach had begun.

The crowd then could have responded with a chant for Tennessee's favorite fantasy football coach, Jon Gruden. As farfetched as that might sound to the more conservative members of the fan base, it's still an upgrade over the wave, which the fans mounted so enthusiastically in the first half.

Maybe that was a symbolic goodbye to the coaches. Or maybe the ritual served as a distraction to what was taking place on the field.

Tennessee's defense was so bad against a mid-level Sun Belt Conference team that even former UT defensive co

ordinators probably were embarrassed. John Chavis didn't give up 721 yards to a Steve Spurrier offense.

It was so bad that Troy quarterback Corey Robinson must have had second thoughts about his childhood dream to play for Tennessee. A better dream: playing against Tennessee's defense.

"It's a bad defense, man," Dooley said in what qualifies as the greatest understatement in his three seasons at UT.

And man oh man, Sunseri was a bad hire. But maybe that was the best a head coach on the hot seat could do.

A coordinator by committee, carving out plays in the sideline grass before each down, would have been an improvement against the Trojans, who began the afternoon 4-4, coming off a 34-27 loss against Florida Atlantic. That's the same Florida Atlantic whose only previous victory was by a 7-3 count against FCS school Wagner.

The Vols could have used Wagner's defense Saturday. Or at least its defensive coordinator.

On a positive note, good thing Cordarrelle Patterson didn't sign with Troy out of college.

The thought came to mind while watching Tennessee's wide receiver dance merrily through the Troy defense at every opportunity in the first half.

His first-half stats: four pass receptions, 150 yards, and a dozen-or-so Troy defenders faked so badly they might have reconsidered football as their sport of choice.

You could fill up a column describing Patterson's open-field excursions, which totaled 219 yards on nine receptions. And if I didn't feel compelled to address a defense that was at death's door, I would.

The incompetence of this defense would have been hard to fathom if Sunseri had introduced the 3-4 scheme to the team moments before it took the field. But this was Game 9.

Just when you think the defense has bottomed out, it descends to another level. The decline could be traced, in part, to the desperate influx of freshmen into a secondary that should be shell shocked by now.

Freshman Daniel Gray might as well have had a neon sign flashing over his helmet against Troy, which took advantage of him repeatedly.

At least, he has inexperience as an excuse. UT veterans often looked every bit as vulnerable while — on any given play — making a Troy receiver look as difficult to contain as Patterson.

Deep passes worked. Long passes worked. Draws worked.

Troy threw 60 passes, and not one was intercepted. UT didn't force a turnover. It didn't manage a sack.

Said Dooley: "We did everything on the sheet, and nothing really worked."

So maybe UT needs a new sheet.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 205

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Was a win, but worst D effort I've ever seen.

Lost like a goose when the ball is snapped.

On to Mizzou...

strops writes:

No matter how bad any UT sport is--Adams is worse. However, he is not accountable.

TheStupidPolice writes:

PREACH!

underthehill writes:

in response to strops:

No matter how bad any UT sport is--Adams is worse. However, he is not accountable.

Try your hand at it..let's see what u got..your comment seems to insinuate u can do better..show us..

graphpro#231211 writes:

No sheet... new coach

thevoice writes:

in response to strops:

No matter how bad any UT sport is--Adams is worse. However, he is not accountable.

Where did he err? Not accountable to what? 5 posts in 2.5 years, including this? You can do better, I know you can.

UTKin1992 writes:

in response to strops:

No matter how bad any UT sport is--Adams is worse. However, he is not accountable.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

jack4444 writes:

It's true there's not only been no improvement, they've gotten worse.

Best defensive game of the year was the first. And 7-2-1 was the last.

shipperman#280095 writes:

when I look at the above photo of Sunseri, all I can think of is: Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk
whoo whoo whoo

AncientVolFan writes:

In the game I watched, Troy's defense was at least 7 points worse than ours.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to AncientVolFan:

In the game I watched, Troy's defense was at least 7 points worse than ours.

We are talking about Troy dude! Tennessee should beat troy by 3 touchdowns or more on any day. Do not bet the farm that we win all the last 3

GoVols_16 writes:

What was the announced attendance of the game?

Red_Runner writes:

This team has three more wins with average to below average defensive play. The Dave Clawson hire doomed Fulmer, and the Sunseri hire may doom Dooley. But the buck stops with the head coach.

thevoice writes:

in response to GoVols_16:

What was the announced attendance of the game?

Wasn't announced.. Wonder why.

rx7outkast writes:

No John...check your facts...Troy LOST to Florida Atlantic last week.

cc623 writes:

Probably the most truthful article Adams has ever written while talking of UT football.

manniesghost1903 writes:

Dave Hart is required to only do two things. Pay taxes and grow old. There is no law that says he must fire Derek Dooley or anyone else on the staff.

We all know Derek Dooley was the only coaching candidate who was willing to work for and with Mike Hamilton. I guess he deserves a little credit for that.

Perhaps this could be titled "Mr. Hamilton's great experiment." This was his opportunity to create a powerhouse at UT with a football coach with great bloodlines. (See Skip Holtz).

So far the results have not been very successful but perhaps with patience and long term vision it may all work out. The question is can Derek Dooley get fans and quality recruits to buy into the big picture? It is not going to be easy.

You get knocked for kicking a field goal late in the game, trailing by 31 points, to provide future confidence to your kicker wh has endured tough times. You get criticized for using the season to experiment with a new defensive scheme which may prove to be successful in the next few years. I truly believe the UT Administration and its supporters are looking at the big picture knowing that there will be turnover at the traditional SEC powerhouses and eventually Derek Dooley will emerge as the experienced savy coach we all have hoped to arrive at UT. Yes, patience is a must in this case. Unfortunately I and several other children of the the 1940's and 1950's won't be around to enjoy it.

Rosie writes:

It's over. It's been over. The staff knows it. It will be a miracle if we win 6, which would be great to have a new coach coach a bowl game. Sal is reprentative of where this staff was last year. You don't have 7/9 assistants leave a team when so many of the players are returning unless you know what the fans now know about Dooley.

BigOrangeSports writes:

in response to thevoice:

Wasn't announced.. Wonder why.

Yes it was. 84,189

mike4vol writes:

It's time for Dave Hart to get off de-fence and fire the staff. The team could not do worse with no coaching staff. Let them go now and put the whole program out of its misery.

Let's form a new coaching team (who knows what they're doing), and let's become that great UT VOLS TEAM again!

airvols#371403 writes:

Don't fire him, demote him to linebacker coach. No buyout!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

One of the rare times I have no argument to JA's article. Sal has totally lost the confidence of his defense and Thompson is probably laughing about right now.

CoverOrange writes:

News flash: we don't play the 3-4, we play a 4-2. Watch the game sometime.

Adams writes like many of the Monday morning QB posters on this board. Not a compliment.

thevoice writes:

in response to BigOrangeSports:

Yes it was. 84,189

I know. Was just trying to get a Dooley supporter to respond. Haven't seen one all night until now.

Actual attendance far less.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to strops:

No matter how bad any UT sport is--Adams is worse. However, he is not accountable.

No. Adams is not worse. This defense sucks more than a Dyson or a Hoover or a Dirt Devil.

Time for a big change. You don't just slough off with that "win is a win" BS when you give up over 700 yards to a Sun Belt team.

Vandy is gonna kill us.

Do it now, Dave.

thevoice writes:

in response to manniesghost1903:

Dave Hart is required to only do two things. Pay taxes and grow old. There is no law that says he must fire Derek Dooley or anyone else on the staff.

We all know Derek Dooley was the only coaching candidate who was willing to work for and with Mike Hamilton. I guess he deserves a little credit for that.

Perhaps this could be titled "Mr. Hamilton's great experiment." This was his opportunity to create a powerhouse at UT with a football coach with great bloodlines. (See Skip Holtz).

So far the results have not been very successful but perhaps with patience and long term vision it may all work out. The question is can Derek Dooley get fans and quality recruits to buy into the big picture? It is not going to be easy.

You get knocked for kicking a field goal late in the game, trailing by 31 points, to provide future confidence to your kicker wh has endured tough times. You get criticized for using the season to experiment with a new defensive scheme which may prove to be successful in the next few years. I truly believe the UT Administration and its supporters are looking at the big picture knowing that there will be turnover at the traditional SEC powerhouses and eventually Derek Dooley will emerge as the experienced savy coach we all have hoped to arrive at UT. Yes, patience is a must in this case. Unfortunately I and several other children of the the 1940's and 1950's won't be around to enjoy it.

I don't mind being patient with a coach who provides competence, hope, improvement, good recruiting classes, good assistant coach hires. Dooley has not done these.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

News flash: we don't play the 3-4, we play a 4-2. Watch the game sometime.

Adams writes like many of the Monday morning QB posters on this board. Not a compliment.

No. We do play a 3-4. We tried playing a 4-2 today in desperation because Sal's 3-4 ain't workin' and has not worked all season. He has no clue.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

What did Adams lie about?

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to thevoice:

I know. Was just trying to get a Dooley supporter to respond. Haven't seen one all night until now.

Actual attendance far less.

You are correct. That was tickets sold. Actual looked more like 70K.

trl_x writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

News flash: we don't play the 3-4, we play a 4-2. Watch the game sometime.

Adams writes like many of the Monday morning QB posters on this board. Not a compliment.

Our philosophy is 3-4 but we played 4 down lineman much of the game.

And it didn't help.

Vols7Twins writes:

Adams, why don't you back Hart in a corner and find out who really hired Sunseri ?

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to thevoice:

I don't mind being patient with a coach who provides competence, hope, improvement, good recruiting classes, good assistant coach hires. Dooley has not done these.

Then show some more patience by becoming educated about the conditions Dooley is working under.

Just about all of the criteria you came up with has been out of Dooley's control. You'd know this if you tried a little research. Hell, you might even understand why no one but Dooley took the job.

What Dooley is working with ought to be required reading for any Vol fan. This is the information age; you have no excuse.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Well at least Adams has the b@lls to state the obvious. Dooley on the other hand will just move on to week 10 as if nothing unusual happened.

Then again, it was defense as usual on Saturday.

thevoice writes:

in response to AZ_Vol:

Then show some more patience by becoming educated about the conditions Dooley is working under.

Just about all of the criteria you came up with has been out of Dooley's control. You'd know this if you tried a little research. Hell, you might even understand why no one but Dooley took the job.

What Dooley is working with ought to be required reading for any Vol fan. This is the information age; you have no excuse.

Sumlin wanted the job. Wonder how he's doing. To all your points, the lack of fan attendance will speak volumes of what is thought of Dooley. It did for Fulmer. Money talks.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Well at least Adams has the b@lls to state the obvious. Dooley on the other hand will just move on to week 10 as if nothing unusual happened.

Then again, it was defense as usual on Saturday.

If Adams had any balls, he'd be trying to interview Hart and asking tough, insightful questions about what Dooley is working with; the situation in the athletic department; and, about whether any more sanctions will be imposed on the program and how the university is responding to the sanctions.

But Adams won't do the above. He'd rather fill his diaper for our benefit each week than educate the fan base about what we need to know.

Adams, and a fact, are two ships passing in the night. There is no need for a forecastle light, or a bell; neither are in any danger of running into each other.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

This defense is even harder to understand when you consider that they practice against a pretty good offense all week.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to AZ_Vol:

Then show some more patience by becoming educated about the conditions Dooley is working under.

Just about all of the criteria you came up with has been out of Dooley's control. You'd know this if you tried a little research. Hell, you might even understand why no one but Dooley took the job.

What Dooley is working with ought to be required reading for any Vol fan. This is the information age; you have no excuse.

"No one but Dooley took this job"?

"Taking" the job as head coach at Tennessee is a gold mine job. Facilities second to none (including the NFL), passionate and dedicated fan base, history, culture, huge recruiting budget. Please don't act like Dooley did us a favor by "stepping up" to become our football coach. Many others were lined up and Hamilton made his choice. Um, who is it at Notre Dame? Kelly? Did you forget his interest in the job?

BigOrangeSports writes:

in response to thevoice:

I know. Was just trying to get a Dooley supporter to respond. Haven't seen one all night until now.

Actual attendance far less.

So you admit you are just a Troll. Go back to your bridge.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to MooseandSquirrelVol:

This defense is even harder to understand when you consider that they practice against a pretty good offense all week.

Interesting post. Totally concur.

pcorange writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Well at least Adams has the b@lls to state the obvious. Dooley on the other hand will just move on to week 10 as if nothing unusual happened.

Then again, it was defense as usual on Saturday.

Why would Dooley act concerned? After all, he's 1-0 on the season, lol.

thevoice writes:

in response to thevoice:

Sumlin wanted the job. Wonder how he's doing. To all your points, the lack of fan attendance will speak volumes of what is thought of Dooley. It did for Fulmer. Money talks.

If you want to go head-to-head, I'm game. I would have several questions for ya, starting with, "Based on what you've seen, do you think Dooley is the right man to lead this program to the heights of an SEC Championship within the next 5 years?"

thevoice writes:

in response to BigOrangeSports:

So you admit you are just a Troll. Go back to your bridge.

At that moment I was. But no worries; I'm back to being a UT fan now.

thevoice writes:

in response to AZ_Vol:

Then show some more patience by becoming educated about the conditions Dooley is working under.

Just about all of the criteria you came up with has been out of Dooley's control. You'd know this if you tried a little research. Hell, you might even understand why no one but Dooley took the job.

What Dooley is working with ought to be required reading for any Vol fan. This is the information age; you have no excuse.

If you want to go head-to-head, I'm game. I would have several questions for ya, starting with, "Based on what you've seen, do you think Dooley is the right man to lead this program to the heights of an SEC Championship within the next 5 years?"

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You hit the nail on the head. A Gruden hire would be crazy huge and recruiting would explode.

Everyone said, "no way Saban goes to Alabama".

Just sayin'.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to thevoice:

Sumlin wanted the job. Wonder how he's doing. To all your points, the lack of fan attendance will speak volumes of what is thought of Dooley. It did for Fulmer. Money talks.

I don't care how Sumlin is doing. He's not the coach of Tennessee. He's also not working with the situation that Dooley is. Your comparison isn't even close.

There were a lot of reasons Fulmer got canned. Fan attendance wasn't even in the picture.

Money is a problem for the athletic department, and it isn't just for football. We owe coaches who don't coach here anymore. We owe administrators who were fired and still collecting from their contracts. We've paid hundreds of thousands in legal fees and other costs.

Hamilton, Fulmer, Kiffin, Reaves, and Pearl. If these five names constituted a poker hand, you'd have a mess and would have to fold. Tennessee athletics just about damn near did.

Dooley has nothing to do with any of the above. Yet, you want to mew about and have no understanding of any of it.

Again, get educated.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to orange_eVOLution:

"No one but Dooley took this job"?

"Taking" the job as head coach at Tennessee is a gold mine job. Facilities second to none (including the NFL), passionate and dedicated fan base, history, culture, huge recruiting budget. Please don't act like Dooley did us a favor by "stepping up" to become our football coach. Many others were lined up and Hamilton made his choice. Um, who is it at Notre Dame? Kelly? Did you forget his interest in the job?

When you start to list what the university was under when Dooley took the job, I'll take you seriously.

Until then, ruminate on the coaches that turned down the Tennessee job before Dooley. Don't sound like a gold mine to me. Sounds exactly what Dooley is dealing with is anything but.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to thevoice:

If you want to go head-to-head, I'm game. I would have several questions for ya, starting with, "Based on what you've seen, do you think Dooley is the right man to lead this program to the heights of an SEC Championship within the next 5 years?"

Child, I don't expect Dooley to post a winning record in the conference column for another 3 years at least.

I've never expected Dooley to even be competitive his first 4 years.

I'm gobsmacked that a Vol fan such as yourself would expect anything remotely competitive after the horror show this university has been for years.

wycoller writes:

7-2-1. It looked more like 9-1-1.

hglover40#234154 writes:

People can say what they like about J. Adams, but the reason UT fans don't like him is he tells the truth - he was right that it was time for Fulmer to go (way before most knew it), he was right this years team had a CHANCE (who knew the D wouldbe THIS BAD) to be much improved and he is right that Sal is the worst hire of all time! He speaks his mind and delusional fans cannot stand the here the truth - good or bad.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Sorry, but Adams seems to me more like just a glorified version of the phooey I see on here all the time.

Look, John, i understand. You think Dooley should've been fired, like...yesterday. Same for Sunseri. But, unlike the brilliant masses on here who echo your sentiment here every day, you're a journalist. You supposedly have some measurable ability to find out from the coaches themselves what is ailing this team. You have credentials that allow you access to staff that we don't have.
Yet everything I've seen you write is basically just a carbon copy of the "throw the bums out" mentality that the majority of this crowd has already made known for some time. Do something insightful...original...something that separates you from the lynch mob on here. You're being paid to write this stuff, for crying out loud.

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