John Adams: Next coach will realize UT doesn't have speed to catch up

John Adams

When Alabama and Georgia line up on defense in the SEC championship game Saturday, they will remind you of Tennessee — until the ball is snapped.

Like Tennessee, the Tide and Bulldogs run a 3-4 defense. Unlike Tennessee, they're highly competent at it. So once they start knocking people around and cutting off ballcarriers near the line of scrimmage, the similar alignments will never come to mind.

But UT's defense didn't just suffer in comparison to the elite teams in the conference. It didn't even resemble an average SEC defense this season.

If UT's next football coach doesn't recognize that immediately, he's the wrong guy for the job.

Building a bigger, stronger defense was a priority for former UT coach Derek Dooley. The scales will tell you he succeeded.

Dooley's first front seven averaged 249 pounds. Two years later, UT's front seven averaged 271. Even if you don't include 360-pound defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, the front seven still would average 14 pounds more than it did in 2010.

But UT's lack of speed on defense was far more noticeable than its size this past season. You saw it game after game, right through last Saturday when Kentucky backup running back Jonathan George raced 45 yards through a spacious secondary. His touchdown brought back memories of Quentin Hines' 70-yard touchdown run on behalf of Akron in the fourth game.

Akron, Kentucky: It didn't matter. Once UT's new coach starts reviewing game videotape, he will think he's watching highlight videos — of everybody else.

Florida's Trey Burton had an 80-yard touchdown run. Missouri's Kendial Lawrence had a 77-yarder. Georgia's Keith Marshall had a 75-yarder. Georgia's Todd Gurley, 51; Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, 47; Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, 43.

Florida also scored on a 75-yard pass. Vanderbilt hit a 71-yarder. Troy, a 67- and 51-yarder. South Carolina had four touchdowns covering 24 yards or more. Alabama had four of 23 or more.

It was as though the season was one long chase scene. Think back: How many times do you remember a Vol overtaking or even gaining ground on someone running for their goal line? My dog had a better chance of catching a car on the interstate.

You could attribute the apparent lack of speed, in part, to the new defensive alignment, which UT seemingly never quite grasped. It's hard to be fast when you aren't sure where you're going.

But when I watched Vanderbilt ballcarriers turning the corner against UT's defense, I began to wonder if UT's secondary could win a relay race against any other team in the conference.

Speed on defense is often what separates the SEC apart from the rest of college football. It also

was obvious at UT for all those years John Chavis was coordinating its defense.

Now, you might as well be watching Minnesota. The new coach might wonder if he made a wrong turn and ended up in the Big Ten.

Once he gets past the initial shock of reviewing UT's 2012 season, he should have all the motivation he needs to recruit faster players on defense.

If he succeeds, maybe Tennessee can start catching up to the rest of the conference.

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

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 92

takespix writes:

Shut up John!

cltvol writes:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

John, as usual, did not lie. He simply chose to highlight the negatives. Notice the lack of reporting on offense. Yes John, we get it. Ut advanced in one area and declined in another. Somehow, being the unbiased individual that you are, you only noticed the negative.
Please give me one moment (long pause) :0 My surprised face! :)

JCJ1986 writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

From one Charlotte Vol to another: I agree.

TKO writes:

I have never seen a worse secondary in Vol history. Hopefully that changes. Heads up Vols. It will get better. GBO!

murrayvol writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

They would indeed.

The speed thing (don't have much) has been apparent for awhile

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Wow! This is good stuff! Yesterday, we were lectured on the need for offensive and defensive linemen (or women, to be fair); today we address the speed issue. Tomorrow we may be informed we could use a big, fast back or two and some receivers to replace those probably leaving. What does that leave? Are Worley and Peterman up to the task? How about a kicker or two?

What would we do without John?

JWilly writes:

JA is just a gleaming ray of sunshine!

fan_for_life writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

citvol - I agree 100%. John isn't going to sugar coat his columns. Truth sometimes hurts.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

I agree. John should be rewarded for pointing out the defense was not very good last year!
I will give you a scoop on the next story - "Ice Cream is cold"

asleep#212036 writes:

John, a more interesting article might have been one exploring all the possible reasons why Dooley and Sunseri didn't see something this obvious during spring practice. That one poor decision has/will cost both of them their jobs and has potentially set us back even further in our quest to be relevant again in the SEC. Go Vols!!!

NeylandWest writes:

I swear, John, your name should be "No S***" because every time I read the first 5 sentences in your articles that's exactly what I say to myself.

NO S***, Adams...

Now drop down and give me 50 for wasting my precious time!

shorttail writes:

in response to takespix:

Shut up John!

i second that

CrankE writes:

Adamz must have just bought his official Derek Dooley 2012 DVD, "You're Not Going to Have Tennessee to Kick Around Anymore" DVD and watching it non-stop.

And to think, he gets paid to write this.

Given that the players didn't change much from 2011 to 2012, the real question might be, "What did Justin Wilcox do that worked so well?"

UT's defense doesn't need to be airtight, shutdown good. Simply being mediocre would provide an opportunity for the program to get 8-9 wins. Oh, but that column is too easy to write. In fact, I just did it.

Fire Debbie Jenningz!

Clarkrm0706 writes:

J.A. sometimes makes me forget my peaceful nature. As I posted above, he did not lie and accurately described our woes. However, this judgement is way behind every fans post, by a year. I do not dislike JA for pointing out the obvious negatives, I just believe that if he is getting paid for these posts, he should be ahead of the game, not so far behind.

Dalton writes:

I've railed on the guy as much as anybody on record...but this season JA showed a new level of objectivity..replacing his attempt to replicate Skip Bayless..as in an earlier posters point I'll repeat..if we didn't see the John Adams byline there'd be a lot less flak toward this article...take a breath Big Orange faithful..maybe he's taking a step to humanity

BillsBrother writes:

Lack of speed wasn't the reason receivers were often open by 15 yards or more. Lacking a competent D coordinator was the primary reason for so many busts this season. Those same "slow" players didn't give up as many big gainers in 2011.

VolMoment writes:

in response to Clarkrm0706:

John, as usual, did not lie. He simply chose to highlight the negatives. Notice the lack of reporting on offense. Yes John, we get it. Ut advanced in one area and declined in another. Somehow, being the unbiased individual that you are, you only noticed the negative.
Please give me one moment (long pause) :0 My surprised face! :)

Little John never played football so when he watches the game he doesn't see what is really happening.Does anybody know that after you run a 100 yards in 10 seconds you have been outrun one and a half yard by a guy who runs the 100 in 9.7 seconds.. Tennessee defensive secondary was about alignment. When I saw the back break the line of scrimmage with no one between him and the goal. I looked at the position of our cornerbacks and safety and they were five to six yards on both sides and they are not going to make those yrds. up in the next 43 to 75 yards against one of their fastest players. A good defensive coordinator under a new coach will have the speed. Retire John the Negative, you don't understand the game.

tdvol1989 writes:

He is 100% correct. Remember T-Mac (Terry McDaniel), Jeremy Lincoln, Terry Fair, even Leonard Little, etc.?

whatthe84 writes:

When you have Marcellus Teague at corner you know you are going to have a big problem. Fullbacks, tightends, tackle elgible will run away from him. Coach Surseri brought the 3-4 to UT and tried his best to implement it. The problem was and is they really don't have the horses to compete in the SEC. They are too small, they are too slow and they are not talented enough. On offense, you have a QB who is a dope smoking head case who folds like a cheap suit when the big moments come in big games and you don't have a quality RB on the roster or anyone in the future. We have talent at the WR but no running game in the SEC kills you. Our line could use some work as well. This will be a project for whoever comes on board. I am not a hater, I am a realist and see things for what they are. I hope I am wrong and I hope the right hire can turn it around immediately, but I doubt it. And the beat goes on.GBO

ETownVol writes:

Captain Obvious strikes again!

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Yes, please point out the obvious but also don't do too much research. If you watch the Vols not all of it was speed, most of it was horrible position and angles. In the Vandy game for example you see players coming from the other side of the field or even the middle of the field taking bad angles to try an cut off the ball carrier, it wasn't just pure speed.

I swear I wish I could be a simpleton and get by in life but generally it doesn't work, there's more to it than just a simple speed, every SEC team has speed.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

Ditto, I read Adams first. Usually insightful and at times witty.

CoverOrange writes:

A lot of the same players from last year when they were rated 28th in the nation overall. Hmmm. May be more to this than simple lack of one characteristic.

Clarkrm0706 writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Little John never played football so when he watches the game he doesn't see what is really happening.Does anybody know that after you run a 100 yards in 10 seconds you have been outrun one and a half yard by a guy who runs the 100 in 9.7 seconds.. Tennessee defensive secondary was about alignment. When I saw the back break the line of scrimmage with no one between him and the goal. I looked at the position of our cornerbacks and safety and they were five to six yards on both sides and they are not going to make those yrds. up in the next 43 to 75 yards against one of their fastest players. A good defensive coordinator under a new coach will have the speed. Retire John the Negative, you don't understand the game.

Hhmm. No arguement here. :)

rb4346 writes:

in response to vut5686#1405392:

Wow! This is good stuff! Yesterday, we were lectured on the need for offensive and defensive linemen (or women, to be fair); today we address the speed issue. Tomorrow we may be informed we could use a big, fast back or two and some receivers to replace those probably leaving. What does that leave? Are Worley and Peterman up to the task? How about a kicker or two?

What would we do without John?

I think we all agree that the lack of speed in the secondary cost us dearly this year,I am wondering if Alcoa and CAK could possibly have had long gains against us. Also wondering if new coach goes to spread offense would our present QB's Worley or Peterman be mobile enough to run it. Thanks for any info you can furnish.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to whatthe84:

When you have Marcellus Teague at corner you know you are going to have a big problem. Fullbacks, tightends, tackle elgible will run away from him. Coach Surseri brought the 3-4 to UT and tried his best to implement it. The problem was and is they really don't have the horses to compete in the SEC. They are too small, they are too slow and they are not talented enough. On offense, you have a QB who is a dope smoking head case who folds like a cheap suit when the big moments come in big games and you don't have a quality RB on the roster or anyone in the future. We have talent at the WR but no running game in the SEC kills you. Our line could use some work as well. This will be a project for whoever comes on board. I am not a hater, I am a realist and see things for what they are. I hope I am wrong and I hope the right hire can turn it around immediately, but I doubt it. And the beat goes on.GBO

I think you've been smoking. Bray was drinking, havent heard a story about pot, but I did hear Rodgers was kicked off for pot. So not sure you know who you're even talking about. Also side note on the stats side Bray was one of the best in the Nation, so yeah.

The Vols roster is not worse than any other team as far as height or weight. So strike 2.

I bet UT could find a running back if they had a coach who called running plays. This year UT has less running plays than almost any team over the last 10 years. Yet Rajon averaged 4.5 yards per carry and Marlin Lane averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Marlin Lane average was 12th best in the league and that includes all runners even Quaterbacks. Keith Marshall at Georgia lead the league at 6.7.

So in summary, I agree to disagree with everything you said

allvol8 writes:

in response to NeylandWest:

I swear, John, your name should be "No S***" because every time I read the first 5 sentences in your articles that's exactly what I say to myself.

NO S***, Adams...

Now drop down and give me 50 for wasting my precious time!

I have the thought of "thank you Cpt. Obvious" when I read his articles

Clarkrm0706 writes:

After reading all of the pro Adams comments, I realize that there are casual observers of the game. I have been too harsh with my comments and digress. Adams does simplify the point and is indeed needed for those that have only a pre-set amount of time for understanding of the game. I have viewed sports with only a marginal interest and now understand his purpose. Sorry John, please proceed.
I am not being sarcastic, I have indeed "been there". :)

VolinCalif writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

You have that right. Not that it means much, but I have always said that John telles it the way it is. Like it or not. Lack of def. speed was our problem this year. Not Sal not Dooley, not Chaney and not really the 3-4. John hits it right on the head.

tdvol1989 writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Little John never played football so when he watches the game he doesn't see what is really happening.Does anybody know that after you run a 100 yards in 10 seconds you have been outrun one and a half yard by a guy who runs the 100 in 9.7 seconds.. Tennessee defensive secondary was about alignment. When I saw the back break the line of scrimmage with no one between him and the goal. I looked at the position of our cornerbacks and safety and they were five to six yards on both sides and they are not going to make those yrds. up in the next 43 to 75 yards against one of their fastest players. A good defensive coordinator under a new coach will have the speed. Retire John the Negative, you don't understand the game.

He acknowledged alignment. But we got outrun to the corners and once the race was on, we got left in the dust.

vol98champ writes:

I'm from Nashville, so I have to put up with Climer. I actually think Adams is a superior reporter to Climer, but I quit taking the Tennessean because of Climer almost 20 years ago. I sure hope someone in the know writes a book on this disastrous season. There is enough blame to fill many chapters. I can't think of one thing that made me smile on a regular basis.

cloudodust writes:

1) Tennessee didn't play their defensive assignments re: containment on the edges. 3-4, 4-3, 6-2. It wouldn't have mattered. The edges were continuously sucked in...2) The lack of speed is obvious on the defensive side when a broken field situation arose either up the middle or on the edges.. Speed kills and Tennessee got kilt a few too many times...Will the next guy stay with the 3-4 or not. If so or not isn't the issue. The right people for whatever D is 'To Be' needs the right players to make it happen...

GerryOP writes:

in response to whatthe84:

When you have Marcellus Teague at corner you know you are going to have a big problem. Fullbacks, tightends, tackle elgible will run away from him. Coach Surseri brought the 3-4 to UT and tried his best to implement it. The problem was and is they really don't have the horses to compete in the SEC. They are too small, they are too slow and they are not talented enough. On offense, you have a QB who is a dope smoking head case who folds like a cheap suit when the big moments come in big games and you don't have a quality RB on the roster or anyone in the future. We have talent at the WR but no running game in the SEC kills you. Our line could use some work as well. This will be a project for whoever comes on board. I am not a hater, I am a realist and see things for what they are. I hope I am wrong and I hope the right hire can turn it around immediately, but I doubt it. And the beat goes on.GBO

If you're a realist that sees things for what they are, how much time have you spent posting about the accomishments and records set by our offense this year? You claim realist when criticizing Bray, but where did you praise what he actually accomplished this year? Why is it that you "realists" focus only on the negative? Just curious.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to rb4346:

I think we all agree that the lack of speed in the secondary cost us dearly this year,I am wondering if Alcoa and CAK could possibly have had long gains against us. Also wondering if new coach goes to spread offense would our present QB's Worley or Peterman be mobile enough to run it. Thanks for any info you can furnish.

Nope! We are a Pro style off, That is what our players were recruited to play. They are pro -Off players. Trying to change them will cost a couple of years and I don't think UT has that time to spare. Trying to force the 3-4 in one year was the cause of showing we lacked speed on def. I don't think UT wants another Coach to revamp every phase of our game. That's a 3-4 yr plan. We had a great Off this year and with a 4-3 or 5-2 we could have had 8-4 season. I think UT will not hire a new coach that is going to try changing everything. Changing got Phil into trouble and it killed Dooley. Hart, I am sure can see this and will not allow that to happen on his Watch.Don't be surprised if Chaney and many of the Asst. are kept on staff. We were only one step away from being a very good team.

GerryOP writes:

I think the biggest problem you dudes and dudettes have with Adams is that he gets paid for posting his diatribes, you folks don't.

BigOrangeRock writes:

Those plays are simple. Out-coached and out-recruited (the speed).

The next coach needs to be Meyers, Saban, or Miles. Since that is not happening it needs to Patterson or Fulmer.

The Rock has spoken.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to cloudodust:

1) Tennessee didn't play their defensive assignments re: containment on the edges. 3-4, 4-3, 6-2. It wouldn't have mattered. The edges were continuously sucked in...2) The lack of speed is obvious on the defensive side when a broken field situation arose either up the middle or on the edges.. Speed kills and Tennessee got kilt a few too many times...Will the next guy stay with the 3-4 or not. If so or not isn't the issue. The right people for whatever D is 'To Be' needs the right players to make it happen...

dust, you have it right. Football speed and track speed are to different animals. Ball speed includes getting in your cover position. Running a open field runner down is something else and a different kind of speed. Yes I played football and ran track. To catch an open field runner once he is in the clear is really hard.

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to BigOrangeRock:

Those plays are simple. Out-coached and out-recruited (the speed).

The next coach needs to be Meyers, Saban, or Miles. Since that is not happening it needs to Patterson or Fulmer.

The Rock has spoken.

Might as well keep working on your list because Patterson and retread Fulmer ain't happening either.

Supersayin1 writes:

Why are you people so upset with the truth? The article is on the Defense, and this is something i'm sure all of you saw on the field! Why would he report something positive if there isn't anything positive to report on that side of the ball?

This was about our SLOW Defensive players which is nothing but truth! Dang it's as if you hate to hear the truth,looking through Orange colored glasses thinking we have a ton of talent on the Defense!

NEWS Flash we don't! We have some decent players but you can't coach speed!

Anyway Great article, it's the truth that Vols fans need to hear! GO VOLS!!!

Pullingguard writes:

buckle up you Insighted Vol fans..John is definitely right on..Vols have little speed, they are muscle bound,can't run with other teams..The way they sling their arms in persuit reminds me of overweight, muscle bound people.. The interest of Dooley was bigger is better, just not in Defensive backs And LB,s.. The new incoming coach has a super hurdle to overcome getting the Vols back to being competitive...

asleep#212036 writes:

What Justin Wilsox did right was told Dooley we couldn't run a 3-4 and put us in a bend-don't-break 4-3, ala Chavis' old standby. It wasn't airtight but it worked plenty well enough. That defense, with 9 returning starters, could have helped us to at least 9 wins, maybe more. The reason our lack of speed didn't hurt us as much last year is because in a cover 2 zone you almost always: (1), keep the plays in front of you and (2), have a deep safety to cut off the breakaways over the top. The cornerback was still getting left in the dust but the safety had his back. I'm not so sure that's not what Brian Randolph was doing as well before he got hurt and we sure missed him after that. We also never could figure out contain on the edges nor could 2 of our 4 LB's cover anybody on the short crossing routes. It was a mess and so unnecessary. Since correcting our lack of speed requires several new players, I doubt we'll see much more of the 3-4 in the short-term at UT. Florida and LSU, stellar defensive teams as well, run a standard 4-3. I'm sure we'll join them next season. Go Vols!!!

ACWLY writes:

in response to ETownVol:

Captain Obvious strikes again!

Yeah, Adam's is having a field day with Tennessee's weaknesses, probably the BEST TIMES of his life... I bet he stays up all night just wondering how he can STICK IT to Tennessee and fans.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Yeah, Adam's is having a field day with Tennessee's weaknesses, probably the BEST TIMES of his life... I bet he stays up all night just wondering how he can STICK IT to Tennessee and fans.

awwwwwwwwww you and the other Adams haters gettin your feelings so hurt hearing that the D sucked this year--------keep living in your bubble and dreamworlds to protect yourselfs from the truth------------he don't STICK it to nobody, he just tells us how he sees it which is his job----------if you cant handle the truth quit reading his columns---------how dumb are you people, you keep deparaging him whatever side he takes and you keep reading him------------its you folks who are the idiots, not John Adams

rkw2 writes:

in response to allvol8:

I have the thought of "thank you Cpt. Obvious" when I read his articles

Don't forget sidekick Climer, a.k.a. "Redundant Lad"...

VolsFanInAfghanistan writes:

Though he maybe right in some aspects of our defense, I think John Adams just writes these stories because he comes on this site to see how many of us responds to them. Good gracious did someone from The University of Tennessee beat him up somewhere? I will admit our defense lacked a lot of speed, but playing out of position will cause a lot of players to have to play catch up to a player already running full speed. I think if our players had time to understand the 3-4 defense we could have been better, but like we all know they weren't recruited to play in a 3-4, so it would have taken some time to understand it. Had Wilcox been given the chance to put it in earlier then maybe we would have had a chance, who knows. The defense he put in had us at 27th nationally last year. If we can find players with heart and some speed, even if they are 3 stars we should at least look at them. I'm sure the strength and conditioning coach can get more speed out of them for sure. If he can make em big he can make em fast!! GBO.

jt45 writes:

in response to yabadabadoo1026:

awwwwwwwwww you and the other Adams haters gettin your feelings so hurt hearing that the D sucked this year--------keep living in your bubble and dreamworlds to protect yourselfs from the truth------------he don't STICK it to nobody, he just tells us how he sees it which is his job----------if you cant handle the truth quit reading his columns---------how dumb are you people, you keep deparaging him whatever side he takes and you keep reading him------------its you folks who are the idiots, not John Adams

LOL! I dont think anyones feeling are hurt by his articles, its more like listening to the same story from someone for the hundreth time. I actually get more laughs from reading all the flaming post that follow his stories than any sitcom on TV. Im pretty sure everyone already figured out the Secondary was slow by game three.

VolGrad writes:

Termites. We've got to get rid of these termites. First thing the new coach will need to do is call Terminex.

I would have thought JA should have had more than a superficial understanding of football than this. It isn't like all our guys are just that much "slower" than everyone else. He actually eludes to the thing that made the biggest difference, but shrugs it off and goes on to interject another subjective insult about lack of speed instead.

Yeah he does understand that it was about more than speed, but he apparently just wants to keep jabbing at it. Makes him feel better in some way, I guess.

It only makes sense that any offensive speed guy is going to be able to exploit that moment of indecision, misalignment or lack of communication on defense. Heck, CP made several defensive guys on very good defensive teams look silly as well as slow. But most of those defenses recovered and made the adjustment. We rarely did, and speed was not the culprit of most of those issues.

Go Vols!

DannyVol writes:

in response to cltvol:

Preempting the JA hatethon... If nobody knew who wrote this, 90% of the board would agree with content. Factual and insightful.

Factual and insightful maybe to someone who needs their football spoon fed to them. Otherwise, this is yet another poorly timed hateful column that serves no purpose other than ruffling feathers and dashing hopes at a time when the fan base is excited about the prospect of getting its 40-million dollar man. If you've read Adams' columns for the past five years, his intent is as obvious as the Vols lack of speed on defense.

VolGrad writes:

Sunseri was Dooley's "Clawson." Bringing in a coordinator to teach a scheme that typically takes at least 2 years to implement and failing to realize that no one was willing to give the head coach that long if he didn't win now. I think that made the biggest difference in this past year. Almost every interview this year with a defensive guy we heard about a communication breakdown. Guys were out of position on most of those long plays. They could have all ran 4.2 40 times and would not have been able to recover on most of those.

Maybe we were a bit slower than some of the offenses we faced. But that was the least of our troubles defensively. Speed kills, but being out of position makes the other guy look a whole heck of a lot faster and yields the same result.

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