Tennessee trying fresh faces to solve defensive woes

Tennessee wide receiver Vincent Dallas (6) runs the ball in the second quarter against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee wide receiver Vincent Dallas (6) runs the ball in the second quarter against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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For the second week in a row, Tennessee tried out some fresh faces on defense in an effort to find solutions for the unit's ongoing problems.

Last week it was defensive lineman Trevarris Saulsberry, who was given the most extensive playing time of his career. On Saturday at South Carolina, freshmen cornerbacks Deion Bonner and Daniel Gray and veteran reserve safety Rod Wilks all got long looks.

"We were giving up a bunch of yards with those other guys," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Sunday. "We needed to start playing (the newcomers). I said I would."

*Dooley said he rarely directs specific adjustments of the defense during a game, instead focuses on his areas of expertise on offense and special teams.

"Not much," Dooley said Sunday when asked how much input he gives to defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri during a game. "I'll give some big-picture, philosophical opinions, but I'm not going to tell them what call to run. I spend all my hours on offense and special teams. I don't know anybody who can do all three. I want to meet them if he can. That's Superman."

*Senior Zach Rogers wasn't the only receiver who had a career day at South Carolina. Sophomore Vincent Dallas, who began the year at defensive back, caught three passes for 78 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown, the first of his career.

*Dooley said his goal was 100 yards of rushing against South Carolina. At 91, the Vols fell just short.

The return of starting running back Rajion Neal, who did not play for the second game in a row with an ankle injury, could help, although Marlin Lane has probably played well enough to continue to see some carries going forward.

"(Neal) just hadn't practiced 100 percent, and we were just not comfortable putting him out there," Dooley said. "Until his mind's ready, I'm not going to put him out there and have him underperform or put the ball on the ground. I don't think it's fair to the team."

*Even after Tyler Bray's fumble with 1:08 remaining with UT driving for the go-ahead score, the Vols had one last chance to win the game after the defense forced a South Carolina punt. But Bray's deep pass intended for Justin Hunter was intercepted by Victor Hampton.

Dooley called it an "opportunity ball" that could have gone either way. Both players seemed to get their fingers on it.

"The ball went deep. I tried to rush over there as fast as I could. I guess I jumped too late," Hunter said. "I had the ball on my fingertips. He just made a good play on it.

"I was just mad. I think I should have jumped a different way to shield him away from the ball. He made a really good play."

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 » 48

vfl76 writes:

How about trying a Fresh Face at DC?

alavol writes:

in response to vfl76:

How about trying a Fresh Face at DC?

Unbelievable defense or lack thereof. Scrap the 3-4 and win some games- all the kids came up playing 4-3. Clawson was Fulmer's Waterloo, Sunseri will be Dooley's! Get real we need to fill the stadium, and win some games. I have never seen a more inept defensive back/safety bunch.

shorttail writes:

damn, recruit 19 db's and safeties, this group couldn't cover my grandmother

Ironcity writes:

in response to alavol:

Unbelievable defense or lack thereof. Scrap the 3-4 and win some games- all the kids came up playing 4-3. Clawson was Fulmer's Waterloo, Sunseri will be Dooley's! Get real we need to fill the stadium, and win some games. I have never seen a more inept defensive back/safety bunch.

This was pointed out to me on Saturday by someone pretty knowledgeable. Our LBs are the worst pass LBs they had ever seen. They all drop to a spot and stand their as if their feet are stuck in the mud. They are completely unaware of players in their zone. Its no wonder ever crossing pattern turns into a 25 yard gain and every tight end this season has had a career day. Our DBs can't tackle but our LBs can't cover. This truly is the worst defense I have ever seen at UT (and I have seen some bad ones). I think we would be better served playing man to man and just send the everyone else to the QB.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How bout you keep your face out of here for the rest of eternity, Toddy-boy?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Ironcity:

This was pointed out to me on Saturday by someone pretty knowledgeable. Our LBs are the worst pass LBs they had ever seen. They all drop to a spot and stand their as if their feet are stuck in the mud. They are completely unaware of players in their zone. Its no wonder ever crossing pattern turns into a 25 yard gain and every tight end this season has had a career day. Our DBs can't tackle but our LBs can't cover. This truly is the worst defense I have ever seen at UT (and I have seen some bad ones). I think we would be better served playing man to man and just send the everyone else to the QB.

Yeah, I remember Austin Johnson dropping back in underneath zone coverage and getting interceptions almost weekly..Why do we not have one LB with play-making ability??

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Ironcity:

This was pointed out to me on Saturday by someone pretty knowledgeable. Our LBs are the worst pass LBs they had ever seen. They all drop to a spot and stand their as if their feet are stuck in the mud. They are completely unaware of players in their zone. Its no wonder ever crossing pattern turns into a 25 yard gain and every tight end this season has had a career day. Our DBs can't tackle but our LBs can't cover. This truly is the worst defense I have ever seen at UT (and I have seen some bad ones). I think we would be better served playing man to man and just send the everyone else to the QB.

Yeah, I remember Austin Johnson dropping back in underneath zone coverage and getting interceptions almost weekly..Why do we not have one LB with play-making ability??

ArmyDad writes:

in response to alavol:

Unbelievable defense or lack thereof. Scrap the 3-4 and win some games- all the kids came up playing 4-3. Clawson was Fulmer's Waterloo, Sunseri will be Dooley's! Get real we need to fill the stadium, and win some games. I have never seen a more inept defensive back/safety bunch.

Actually, many of the current UT defensive players came up playing a 3-4 defense in high school. With more and more high school now playing a spread option offense, high schools have countered with a 3-4 defensive front.

This 4-3/3-4 defense excuse has gotten old. The 3-4 isn't rocket science, and if we aren't recruiting kids smart enough to play it then maybe that is the problem.

The real issue is that we just don't have much upper echelon SEC talent on the defensive side of the ball right now, and it wouldn't matter if we were playing a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, or a 10-1. We are simply a bad defensive team.

tnwolfpup68 writes:

in response to ArmyDad:

Actually, many of the current UT defensive players came up playing a 3-4 defense in high school. With more and more high school now playing a spread option offense, high schools have countered with a 3-4 defensive front.

This 4-3/3-4 defense excuse has gotten old. The 3-4 isn't rocket science, and if we aren't recruiting kids smart enough to play it then maybe that is the problem.

The real issue is that we just don't have much upper echelon SEC talent on the defensive side of the ball right now, and it wouldn't matter if we were playing a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, or a 10-1. We are simply a bad defensive team.

Absolutely on point - Thank you!!!

brokendownoldvol writes:

In HS we went from a 4-4 we ran for 6 yrs. to a 3-4 in one wk and held Cookville and Juicey Lock to a shut out back in the 70's. I thought it was a much easier defense to play. I just do't understand what the excuses are.

FWBVol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can respect this post because you don't stoop to name calling. Fans can be civil and express their frustration with Derek Dooley and call for his firing without the snide comments.

I still think Dooley deserves one more year, but I can understand your point of view and respect your opinion.

shorttail writes:

in response to tnwolfpup68:

Absolutely on point - Thank you!!!

so true, and don't see these safeties and DB's being any better next year

cyclonevol87 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dooley replaced 7 assistant coaches and still started 0-5 in SEC play sounds like you might be right.

coach799 writes:

in response to ArmyDad:

Actually, many of the current UT defensive players came up playing a 3-4 defense in high school. With more and more high school now playing a spread option offense, high schools have countered with a 3-4 defensive front.

This 4-3/3-4 defense excuse has gotten old. The 3-4 isn't rocket science, and if we aren't recruiting kids smart enough to play it then maybe that is the problem.

The real issue is that we just don't have much upper echelon SEC talent on the defensive side of the ball right now, and it wouldn't matter if we were playing a 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, or a 10-1. We are simply a bad defensive team.

I have to disagree with you because our numbers on defense were better last year with virtually the same players. The scheme has to be the difference. We lose receivers every game and miss tackles regularly.

GO VOLS!!

GloryDays writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We need a new face at defensive cordinator.

TNPilgrim writes:

TN and Vandy jointly hold the record for starting 0-5 in the SEC three years in a row. That's because of mediocre talent and poor coaching on the defensive side of the ball. Dooley readily admits he's not very astute on defense. It's obvious he's also not an SEC caliber coach.

ArmyDad writes:

in response to coach799:

I have to disagree with you because our numbers on defense were better last year with virtually the same players. The scheme has to be the difference. We lose receivers every game and miss tackles regularly.

GO VOLS!!

Believe what you want, but scheme doesn't make defenders miss tackles and bust pass coverages.

If the 3-4 is such a though scheme to learn, then why do other major schools and NFL teams run it? It's a solid defensive set, and it is not rocket science to execute properly.

We just aren't very talented on that side of the football.

clvolfan writes:

It ain't the faces but the places,and mostly where they ain't.

therightstuff writes:

Appears we are playing more 4-3 than 3-4. Our DB's are slow and miss receivers because their heads are up their rear-ends.

golfman1975 writes:

fyi...the defense has made progress this year. We are beginning to stop the run but need more pressure on the QB's. ANY quarterback with no pressure can through to some one open somewhere. With pressure we can cover...with out it there is no one that can cover an SEC receiver for 10 seconds.

thevoice writes:

in response to therightstuff:

Appears we are playing more 4-3 than 3-4. Our DB's are slow and miss receivers because their heads are up their rear-ends.

Nice to see someone else noticed. I rarely see this team line up in a 3-4.

123forVOLS writes:

Here we go again with all the college football experts who doggone know just what needs to be done to fix the UT Vols football team. What a joke! It's called STILL REBUILDING! All you who want to continue that, send in your absentee/anonymous ballot to fire Coach Dooley. Then you will continue complaining. It takes time folks. SC is a better overall team that UT. Why, it's in the defensive differences. Why can so many continue to not accept where the program is? I hope Dave Hart does and realizes if he has no sure fire replacement who can do what you experts demand, keep Dooley one more year. Oh yeah, then we will still have to hear the experts kicking the team and coaches. Guess that is life as a Vol fan right now.

JayTee writes:

It appears defense is not Dooley or Sunseri's area of expertise.

Ichabod writes:

So CDD is not a Defensive Coach and concentrates on his area of expertise, like SPECIAL TEAMS ??
Ohhhhhh, now I have a better understanding as to why our Special Teams are the worst in school history. (Just like the defense). Oh sweet mama, get us outta here.

BlueHarley writes:

in response to coach799:

I have to disagree with you because our numbers on defense were better last year with virtually the same players. The scheme has to be the difference. We lose receivers every game and miss tackles regularly.

GO VOLS!!

Our numbers are worse this year with arguably better defensive personnel. The big difference...defensive coaching staff.

usafvol writes:

in response to 123forVOLS:

Here we go again with all the college football experts who doggone know just what needs to be done to fix the UT Vols football team. What a joke! It's called STILL REBUILDING! All you who want to continue that, send in your absentee/anonymous ballot to fire Coach Dooley. Then you will continue complaining. It takes time folks. SC is a better overall team that UT. Why, it's in the defensive differences. Why can so many continue to not accept where the program is? I hope Dave Hart does and realizes if he has no sure fire replacement who can do what you experts demand, keep Dooley one more year. Oh yeah, then we will still have to hear the experts kicking the team and coaches. Guess that is life as a Vol fan right now.

I agree with you. All these arm chair coaches and AD's on here surely missed their calling in life. Coaching is really easy sitting in front of the t.v. with a budweiser in your hand and a face full of chips..

vol98champ writes:

in response to thevoice:

Nice to see someone else noticed. I rarely see this team line up in a 3-4.

My question is; what difference does it make if the LB's and DB's can't cover a slow moving semi? I know they have no speed, but they had none last year except for Randolph. At least last year they were in the right scheme and angles for tackles. This year they play really well for 5 or 6 plays and then have one where at least 2 or more guys in the deep 7 or8 are out of position and take bad angles for contact.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I can respect this post because you don't stoop to name calling. Fans can be civil and express their frustration with Derek Dooley and call for his firing without the snide comments.

I still think Dooley deserves one more year, but I can understand your point of view and respect your opinion.

you obviously haven't seen many of Toddy's posts

62vol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Yeah, I remember Austin Johnson dropping back in underneath zone coverage and getting interceptions almost weekly..Why do we not have one LB with play-making ability??

Lack of new telent. The new guys got hurt in pre-season and our present group seems short on smarts and speed and talent. This is not a reflection on coaching alone, it is the reality of the situation. A deep understanding of position assignments is only coachable to the extent of the player's ability to be coached.

volfaninutah writes:

in response to TNPilgrim:

TN and Vandy jointly hold the record for starting 0-5 in the SEC three years in a row. That's because of mediocre talent and poor coaching on the defensive side of the ball. Dooley readily admits he's not very astute on defense. It's obvious he's also not an SEC caliber coach.

I think Auburn joined that exclusive club this past week. They are in the same boat. just 2 years after a championship.

exlineman writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

you obviously haven't seen many of Toddy's posts

You can say that again, he is one of the worst trolls on this site and I am not so sure that he is not 2 or 3 different trolls. Heard Joe Biddle sports writer for the Tn. this morning and he brought up the difficulties of Dooley having to build this program from the ground up and has only lost to 5 top teams that very few teams out there will beat this year. His input was to give Dooley time to get this mess he inherited straightened out.

exlineman writes:

in response to 62vol:

Lack of new telent. The new guys got hurt in pre-season and our present group seems short on smarts and speed and talent. This is not a reflection on coaching alone, it is the reality of the situation. A deep understanding of position assignments is only coachable to the extent of the player's ability to be coached.

Excellent post there 62vol.

62vol writes:

in response to tnwolfpup68:

Absolutely on point - Thank you!!!

Complexity seems to be another common factor. The coaches have now tried to simplify by not using some alignments but the phrasing of the D-sets may be too complicated for the players. That was the problem with Dave Clawsen and his names for his offensive schemes.
For example, if a safety blitz is called by the tag of:

"red dog--left shift--swing over--zone crunch----bandit--cover two-left" , some players are saying "Hunh? and "what the?" instead of lining up. Sunseri may be missing the point about what the players need. During a spring drill interview, he bragged about his special names for simple nickel and dime packages. The "KISS" principal should be applied to the names of the D schemes.

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

If our defense learns to play in the first half like they do in the second, I think we'll be okay. I get that it takes more than one year to learn to play that defense, but we need to communicate better as a unit.

SummerfieldVol writes:

Defenseive line and Linebacker play is sufficent,I did not say very good or even good,but the secondary is no where up to par. They seem lost as to their assignments. I would strongly suggest going to a man to man,simply stay with the man you have been assigned, in other word get into his socks. It will then all depend if we have the personnnel to pull it off, but there will be no mistake as to who to cover and how far to cover. That is why I have said before DEFENSE is reactionary, you just react to the play. It sure can not hurt especially the amount of points and yardage we give up on pass plays, wide open receivers. I think or know we play way way to soft on pass defense, you can't play 5 to 9 yards off of the receiver expect to cover a pass. I understand the thinking of keep the play in front of you, but then it just becomes pitch and catch for the offense and you hope you can make the tackle, they (the offense) will 7 or 8 yard you all the way to the end zone. We need a different scheme because the ones we are using especially against GA,FL,Miss ST,AL and SC sure did not work, record setting performances by each team against us. I would be ok if just one team had a very good day againt us but for all five to have a great day against us should tell you time to change your pass defense scheme. If you stay with what you are doing you will not be here next year, so if you like your job you had better start doing some big time coaching. If you look up the definition of coach = to instruct or teach. Well you had better start doing both. Some of the coaches are doing their job but some are not and it is not to hard to know who is not by the results at the end of the ball game.

exlineman writes:

in response to 62vol:

Complexity seems to be another common factor. The coaches have now tried to simplify by not using some alignments but the phrasing of the D-sets may be too complicated for the players. That was the problem with Dave Clawsen and his names for his offensive schemes.
For example, if a safety blitz is called by the tag of:

"red dog--left shift--swing over--zone crunch----bandit--cover two-left" , some players are saying "Hunh? and "what the?" instead of lining up. Sunseri may be missing the point about what the players need. During a spring drill interview, he bragged about his special names for simple nickel and dime packages. The "KISS" principal should be applied to the names of the D schemes.

Another great post there 62 vol, you are giving this site some great input, as to what could be the problem of this defense.

Big_Orange_Aide writes:

The sad thing is once Dooley is fired we probably lose Pittman and Graham too. They have done an amazing job.

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

I don't think there is any guarantee we lose Pittman and Graham if Dooley goes. After all, anyone coming in would likely want some of the staff to stay to help in recruiting.

hikerdude writes:

Wilcox had less talent than Suseri and yet we were 28th in the nation on defense instead of 99th. If Wilcox hadn't abandoned ship we could easily be 6-2.

tfortennessee writes:

Despite the criticism, this defense will pay big dividends in the long haul. It is complicated and cannot simply be inserted in one season. The defensive backs are young, many of whom were wide receivers in high school. Hopefully the team will win out now and have a year of experience under their belts. We have lost to five very good teams, all ranked and all expected to do well in post season bowls. CDD is an offensive mind and has done exceptionally well in that regard, however it took three seasons to get to that juncture. Give CSS time and the defense will be equally effective.

Retiredvol writes:

in response to Ironcity:

This was pointed out to me on Saturday by someone pretty knowledgeable. Our LBs are the worst pass LBs they had ever seen. They all drop to a spot and stand their as if their feet are stuck in the mud. They are completely unaware of players in their zone. Its no wonder ever crossing pattern turns into a 25 yard gain and every tight end this season has had a career day. Our DBs can't tackle but our LBs can't cover. This truly is the worst defense I have ever seen at UT (and I have seen some bad ones). I think we would be better served playing man to man and just send the everyone else to the QB.

Totally agree. So whether Tennessee plays a 3-4 or a 4-3 is a moot point. The LB's and Secondary suck and can't cover.

HooRay_Vol writes:

I remember when SC would have one of the best defenses in the nation. Games past would have been 17-10 UT

Thumper72 writes:

in response to Retiredvol:

Totally agree. So whether Tennessee plays a 3-4 or a 4-3 is a moot point. The LB's and Secondary suck and can't cover.

Couldn't agree more. Formula for scoring on the Vols: throw it over the LB's head and the secondary can't make a tackle. We don't have seams in the zone, we have freeway lanes.

tomnncvol writes:

I swore that I wasn't going to post anything about the team but I just couldn't help it.
I have been an avid vol fan for over 50 years.
This is absolutely the worst defensive team I have seen. Its also the worst kicking game that I can remember. It hurts when players don't learn from their mistakes. Twice SC touchtowns could have been averted if the backs had just tackled the receiver. It was bad enough the first time it happened but the second time, it made us lose possession also. It makes me think that no one is talking to these kids on the sideline.

gammodm writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

In HS we went from a 4-4 we ran for 6 yrs. to a 3-4 in one wk and held Cookville and Juicey Lock to a shut out back in the 70's. I thought it was a much easier defense to play. I just do't understand what the excuses are.

A Juicey Locke reference! Well played!

+1

dgcarter43 writes:

Eight games into the season, the coaching staff should not have to experiment with the lineup to see who can best get the job done. That is a failure of the coaching staff. It appears Sal Sunseri is in over his head and probably the db coach also. With less experience last year, Wilcox did a better job.The defensive line coach seems to be doing o.k.

volfan_gatorhater writes:

This article makes me mad. This is why we are less than good. I mean, lets pretend that Dooley has a job. I don't mean has a job like he is still our coach...but a job like you and me. If I, just 1 time, said anything remotely similar to "I concentrate on the offense and special teams...nobody is good at all 3...Superman", then I would have a lot more time to spend leaving comments on message boards. You are the coach, your defense is horrible, you have a brand new DC who is learning on the job, and a tenured and highly experienced OC...do I have to continue? I would also be on the PGA Tour if I didn't have to putt. The fact is, Dooley wasn't qualified when we hired him and he isn't qualified now. He's a great guy, a real gentleman, says all the right things...he's just not capable of coaching an SEC team - with any success. I would bring up the Peter Principle here, but that theory wouldn't hold water because he past his potential when he was promoted to HC at LA Tech.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to 123forVOLS:

Here we go again with all the college football experts who doggone know just what needs to be done to fix the UT Vols football team. What a joke! It's called STILL REBUILDING! All you who want to continue that, send in your absentee/anonymous ballot to fire Coach Dooley. Then you will continue complaining. It takes time folks. SC is a better overall team that UT. Why, it's in the defensive differences. Why can so many continue to not accept where the program is? I hope Dave Hart does and realizes if he has no sure fire replacement who can do what you experts demand, keep Dooley one more year. Oh yeah, then we will still have to hear the experts kicking the team and coaches. Guess that is life as a Vol fan right now.

Dooley left LA Tech and now they are in the top 25. Dude, Dooley is not a good coach, look at his overall record. And I suspect that if we do go to a lower tier bowl game this year, that will be his lsst game at UT

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