Coaches: Tennessee reaching limits of defensive simplification

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) tackles Alabama wide receiver Cyrus Jones (8) at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) tackles Alabama wide receiver Cyrus Jones (8) at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee's defense cannot be simplified any more than it already has, a somewhat exasperated Derek Dooley said earlier this week.

The Tennessee coach had directed defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri to cut out some of the complexities from the Vols' new 3-4 scheme to help players react more instinctively on the field.

At this point, Dooley said, there is little else to strip.

"We (simplified) big-time. A couple of times the long balls (against Alabama) were from being simple," Dooley said. "You can't just sit there and play one front and one coverage the whole game when you play good teams. If somebody did that to us, we would put 60 (points) on them."

On Wednesday, Sunseri downplayed the impact of the simplifications.

"I don't believe we've stripped away that much," Sunseri said. "We did simplify it a little bit. We took some checks out. But these guys are busting their butt. They are coming in and watching tape and doing what they need to do. ... When you go out there and play against football teams you have to execute. Executing and consistency are the most important things you have to do."

***

Sunseri did acknowledge some of the growing pains in the implementation of his defense. Ideally, he said, players can quickly identify what the offense is doing and adjust accordingly. Tennessee isn't always able to do that.

"Young men who are playing this game have to understand that you are no longer able to come out here and play one front and one coverage," he said. "There are multiple things that the offense is doing and you have to be able to adjust and apply your checks. Until you get to that process where you can go, see a formation, know your check and apply it, you're going to have some problems."

***

Running back Rajion Neal (ankle) has practiced all week and seems ready to play Saturday at South Carolina after sitting out last week.

"Obviously he's a good football player and we'd love to have him back," said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

***

Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart watched part of Tennessee's practice on Wednesday.

***

Tennessee amassed more yardage against Alabama than any other team this season, but Dooley was critical of the Vols' offense. So was Chaney, who said scoring only 13 points was unacceptable.

"When you score as few points as we did Saturday, nobody is playing at the level of football you want them to play at," he said. "Ultimately our job is to score points and we aren't getting that done."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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

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Comments » 86

PUL4VOLS writes:

Well whatever they are or are not simplifying is simply Not Working. If that is not clear, I don't know what is. What to do about that is another matter altogether. It would be nice to see the defense simply slow down South Carolina Sat. and keep them out of the end zone at least part of the time. We'll see what they come up with.

rkastens writes:

Do they mean we are simplifying things for opposing offenses?

Prostar writes:

I don't have as much trouble with the defensive line or linebackers as I do with the corners and safeties. Why was the Alabama receiver left all alone and not one defender within 10-15 yards of him? How come Florida's DB's are shadowing the receiver and we can't stay within 10 feet of the receiver. I thought we were going to play a tough physical game. They may be working hard but something just isn't registering with them. It's getting too painful to watch.

baldingalum writes:

Jon Gruden

shorttail writes:

the biggest downfall is not being able to cover receivers

tenndave writes:

in response to Prostar:

I don't have as much trouble with the defensive line or linebackers as I do with the corners and safeties. Why was the Alabama receiver left all alone and not one defender within 10-15 yards of him? How come Florida's DB's are shadowing the receiver and we can't stay within 10 feet of the receiver. I thought we were going to play a tough physical game. They may be working hard but something just isn't registering with them. It's getting too painful to watch.

AMEN!!!!!!!!

snuffysmiff writes:

One coach says "We simplified big time" and the other says "I don't believe we've stripped away that much". Sounds to me like two people aren't on the same page.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to shorttail:

the biggest downfall is not being able to cover receivers

You've got that right. At first it was the lack of stopping the run. That appears to be fixed and now it's the secondary in pass def. We'll get all that fixed by Sat. BUT!!!! I've been wrong on every count this year.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

"Young men who are playing this game have to understand that you are no longer able to come out here and play one front and one coverage," he said. "There are multiple things that the offense is doing and you have to be able to adjust and apply your checks. Until you get to that process where you can go, see a formation, know your check and apply it, you're going to have some problems."

Wilcox did pretty good with the same core group last year Sal.

At some point, you have to admit you have a problem and that problem is you buddy.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Prostar:

I don't have as much trouble with the defensive line or linebackers as I do with the corners and safeties. Why was the Alabama receiver left all alone and not one defender within 10-15 yards of him? How come Florida's DB's are shadowing the receiver and we can't stay within 10 feet of the receiver. I thought we were going to play a tough physical game. They may be working hard but something just isn't registering with them. It's getting too painful to watch.

The CB was playing zone when everyone else was playing man. That had nothing to do with the switch to the 3-4. That was lack of communication within the defense.

GatorHater1998 writes:

gruden could get some players that understand how to play defense.

oldster writes:

Evidently, today's kids are not as smart as those of yesterday. UT's coaches are saying as much when they say what they said in this article. "It is as simple as it can get, and our guys still can't get it." I tried to teach an offensive system to a group of kids a couple of years ago, that was the exact same system I taught the same age group twenty year ago, but what that group 20 years ago got in about two weeks, the newer group never got. The problem is not genetic - it is with expectations. Pass Johnny even if he cannot read. We do not want to hurt his feelings.

GoVols_16 writes:

This is completely ridiculous. Two weeks ago the defense was really starting to "get it" and they were turning the corner. This season is truly a dumpster fire.

VOLS_SEC_RULES writes:

in response to snuffysmiff:

One coach says "We simplified big time" and the other says "I don't believe we've stripped away that much". Sounds to me like two people aren't on the same page.

Yes, indeed.

pcorange writes:

Well, which coach isn't telling the whole truth? Is it over-simplified or ain't it?

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Feels like 2008.

These coaches sound like an off key Phil Fulmer cover band.

Anyone remember this classic:

"Eric is our QB but we have two QB's".

6972 writes:

in response to Prostar:

I don't have as much trouble with the defensive line or linebackers as I do with the corners and safeties. Why was the Alabama receiver left all alone and not one defender within 10-15 yards of him? How come Florida's DB's are shadowing the receiver and we can't stay within 10 feet of the receiver. I thought we were going to play a tough physical game. They may be working hard but something just isn't registering with them. It's getting too painful to watch.

We have a lack of speed in the defensive secondary according to Tim Priest as I heard him on the radio.

atlvol81 writes:

When you have the Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at odds about the defense.What do you think those players are dealing with? Also Hart was at practice on Wednesday,it is just a matter of time for Dooley.

6972 writes:

in response to oldster:

Evidently, today's kids are not as smart as those of yesterday. UT's coaches are saying as much when they say what they said in this article. "It is as simple as it can get, and our guys still can't get it." I tried to teach an offensive system to a group of kids a couple of years ago, that was the exact same system I taught the same age group twenty year ago, but what that group 20 years ago got in about two weeks, the newer group never got. The problem is not genetic - it is with expectations. Pass Johnny even if he cannot read. We do not want to hurt his feelings.

Interesting observation on the 2 different groups. I also wonder how attitude plays into the whole picture. How atheletes, even at the pro level, who have all kinds of natural talent but never cut the mustard because of attitude. The list of those guys is "long and distinguished"

budd#207344 writes:

in response to JonGrudensAgent:

"Young men who are playing this game have to understand that you are no longer able to come out here and play one front and one coverage," he said. "There are multiple things that the offense is doing and you have to be able to adjust and apply your checks. Until you get to that process where you can go, see a formation, know your check and apply it, you're going to have some problems."

Wilcox did pretty good with the same core group last year Sal.

At some point, you have to admit you have a problem and that problem is you buddy.

Exactly, last year you finish with the 28th best D in the NCAA and lose one starter. Suddenly you cannot stop the same teams? If my job was on the line I sure wouldn't go to a scheme that everyone knows takes two to three years to perfect and when I have not been recruiting to that scheme for the last four years. And hire an inexperienced guy to run it.

OrangePsyched writes:

in response to 6972:

Interesting observation on the 2 different groups. I also wonder how attitude plays into the whole picture. How atheletes, even at the pro level, who have all kinds of natural talent but never cut the mustard because of attitude. The list of those guys is "long and distinguished"

I think that you and oldster are both right and might I add that this video game culture leaves everyone with a short attention span. It's hard to teach young people today without bells and whistles. I wish that we would just send the house and try to get physical with the receivers on every play. We haven't got anything else to lose.

fearthehound writes:

in response to 6972:

We have a lack of speed in the defensive secondary according to Tim Priest as I heard him on the radio.

Gotta admit 6972, I don't get that. We've been concentrating on defensive backs in the past two or three years and have had the #15-16 recruiting classes in the nation. What have we been doing, targeting the slow guys?

fearthehound writes:

in response to KremsersWaywardWallop:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Jeez KNS, can't we do something to get rid of this slimeball? I know, he'll just resurrect himself with another screen name if we do, but let's at least try, ok? When we see the evidence it's him again, we can report it and you can kill that screen name and eventually, he'll dry up and go away.

I don't mind criticism and I understand if someone isn't wild about Dooley, but this guy is just REDUNDANT. He doesn't even try to be creative--not that he probably could. I'm sure there is a psychological component to this whole thing, as well.

OklaVOL writes:

in response to atlvol81:

When you have the Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at odds about the defense.What do you think those players are dealing with? Also Hart was at practice on Wednesday,it is just a matter of time for Dooley.

Please Vol fans. Stop calling for the coaches head. It has been a tough season so far, but constantly speculating about the coaching future is taking the focus away from the task ahead, winning football games. Dooley may or may not be the guy, but lets get behind the TEAM, and be supporters, of the kids that signed to play for TENNESSEE. We will see what happens when the season is in the books.

6972 writes:

in response to fearthehound:

Gotta admit 6972, I don't get that. We've been concentrating on defensive backs in the past two or three years and have had the #15-16 recruiting classes in the nation. What have we been doing, targeting the slow guys?

I have to admit when Tim Priest during the game made the statement it knocked my socks off. I thought the defense was to be one of the strengths of the team this year. Tim, a former defensive back, I think just tells it like it is.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to oldster:

Evidently, today's kids are not as smart as those of yesterday. UT's coaches are saying as much when they say what they said in this article. "It is as simple as it can get, and our guys still can't get it." I tried to teach an offensive system to a group of kids a couple of years ago, that was the exact same system I taught the same age group twenty year ago, but what that group 20 years ago got in about two weeks, the newer group never got. The problem is not genetic - it is with expectations. Pass Johnny even if he cannot read. We do not want to hurt his feelings.

Everyone gets a trophy.

Loud and clear, oldster.

AZ_Vol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only thing pathetic here, Junior, is you.

Back in yer hole, loser.

OrangePsyched writes:

in response to KremsersWaywardWallop:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, jeff if anyone should be able to spot a loser it should be you. You've actually taken that word to a whole new level. Maybe we should hire someone who couldn't cut it on the football field such as yourself. What do you think?

fearthehound writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Exactly, last year you finish with the 28th best D in the NCAA and lose one starter. Suddenly you cannot stop the same teams? If my job was on the line I sure wouldn't go to a scheme that everyone knows takes two to three years to perfect and when I have not been recruiting to that scheme for the last four years. And hire an inexperienced guy to run it.

That puzzles me some, too. I wonder how much input Hart had in the whole Sunseri hire? It makes me a little uncomfortable, because if we had a pretty decent defense this year, I think everything would be different and Kremser and Walt and Elizondo would have nothing to whine about (contantly).

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Exactly, last year you finish with the 28th best D in the NCAA and lose one starter. Suddenly you cannot stop the same teams? If my job was on the line I sure wouldn't go to a scheme that everyone knows takes two to three years to perfect and when I have not been recruiting to that scheme for the last four years. And hire an inexperienced guy to run it.

Gold star next to your post. If we had Wilcox and last years scheme then this season is a different story. Doesn't do any good to blab about it but it's true. Everybody was ready to see Wilcox go, I never understood that really. BonzaiVol

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to fearthehound:

That puzzles me some, too. I wonder how much input Hart had in the whole Sunseri hire? It makes me a little uncomfortable, because if we had a pretty decent defense this year, I think everything would be different and Kremser and Walt and Elizondo would have nothing to whine about (contantly).

They would find something. As long as the Dooley is the coach, they'll never STFU, no matter what.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to KremsersWaywardWallop:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sometimes, you have a loser at the keyboard. We call him, "Jeffy."

geo7vol writes:

It actually is very simple; Tennessee has been out coached and out played with better athletes and better coaches.....

claiborneh writes:

Dooley says the over simplification is why they were beat on long balls.
Nice.
I.e. "we don't know how to coach them the proper way, or they are not talented enough to learn."

claiborneh writes:

in response to snafu14u#241639:

Gold star next to your post. If we had Wilcox and last years scheme then this season is a different story. Doesn't do any good to blab about it but it's true. Everybody was ready to see Wilcox go, I never understood that really. BonzaiVol

So if a defensive scheme takes two to three years to perfect, does this mean freshmen can't play? Or you only perfect the scheme your senior year?
C'mon people this is hogwash you have read in the articles.
4/3, 3/4, 4/4- it's football. These defenses are fundamentaly not so different that the learning curb drastically changes.
Just excuses.
There have been the wrong number of kids on the field, misalignments, miscoverages, and poor game management all three years.
They are not being prepared properly.

KingDanno (Inactive) writes:

"Dooley says the over simplification is why they were beat on long balls.
Nice.
I.e. "we don't know how to coach them the proper way, or they are not talented enough to learn.""

Spot on. Dooley's press conference last week said it all. We aren't executing. We never were executing. You can wish for us to execute week in and week out and in doing so, it may make you want to execute yourself, let alone buy more TN gear and pay for seats. You can get a great view. You'll see me, Booley in the orange pants, throwing my headset down in frustration from not being able to coach the players to make what they call "plays".

bfowler1161#262198 writes:

What is difficult about tackling??? Learning new coverages will take time in the system, faster more physical DB's. A better pass rush helps our DB's as well. But the simple truth is we do not tackle very well at all!

rockytop931 writes:

Has anyone heard anything on jon gruden is it just a rumer?

injunvol writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Jon Gruden

head coach of the cleveland browns

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

This is hilarious. The weekly sit-com that is ut football has returned. It could be worse. You can still lose to UK.....again. Anyway, keep up the solid work. This is the best entertainment value in all of college football.

Go Vawls!

EIGHT

crappieking writes:

Sunseri is a joke.

Orangepuddinskin writes:

in response to injunvol:

head coach of the cleveland browns

I have also heard the Detroit Lions. LOL

shipperman#280095 writes:

Why is everyone who calls Dooley's coaching skills, or lack thereof called a loser or troll? I have been a big VOL fan since the days of Doug Dickey, and to be quite honest, Dooley may be the very worst coach of the entire lot.

Tennfan4075 writes:

in response to fearthehound:

Jeez KNS, can't we do something to get rid of this slimeball? I know, he'll just resurrect himself with another screen name if we do, but let's at least try, ok? When we see the evidence it's him again, we can report it and you can kill that screen name and eventually, he'll dry up and go away.

I don't mind criticism and I understand if someone isn't wild about Dooley, but this guy is just REDUNDANT. He doesn't even try to be creative--not that he probably could. I'm sure there is a psychological component to this whole thing, as well.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

cloudodust writes:

Going back to the basics at this point in the season tells me somebody has messed up. By now the defense should be tossing in new wrinkles, not practicing fundamentals or simplicity. There are times for the basics and it's called Spring ball. Are we starting Spring ball mid-season..?

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

Remember this off season when we were told that Dooley had changed? Well, the pressure is hotter than ever and he's back to throwing his players under the bus for the situation that he created.

What coach in his right mind who knew he was on the hot seat goes out and hires a coordinator that changes the whole system in a must win year?

Maybe that's all he could do when half his coaches quit on him from the previous year. That being said, if the kids aren't grasping it, it's up to the coaches to adjust...drasticlly if need be.

The writing is on the wall, Dooley is back to slamming the kids, get him out now. I don't care if it's Gruden or someone else next year. Dooley is only hurting this teams chances to salvage the season.

Pittman has more than enough experience to interim coach this team. Heck, make him and Graham co-interim coaches. At least someone will be at the helm who the kids respect.

Enough already, it's time!

Go Vols!

ScottEmge writes:

in response to baldingalum:

Jon Gruden

YES!!!!

ashvol7 writes:

in response to JonGrudensAgent:

Feels like 2008.

These coaches sound like an off key Phil Fulmer cover band.

Anyone remember this classic:

"Eric is our QB but we have two QB's".

"We will have to look at the film" Anyone remember that line?

ashvol7 writes:

in response to KremsersWaywardWallop:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

finally someone got it it dead on, we need a clean sweep from Hart, Dooley, and especially Sal.

volaholic45 writes:

What they have been doing looks pretty simple to me. When the opposing player catches a pass, run tackle him or push him out of bounds as quick as you can. And if he scores you get to take a break. What could be simpler than that?

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