Last season Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley thought it might be a good idea to change up Tennessee’s defensive scheme. Before the season came to its conclusion he was fired.
While the Vols had one of the most lethal offenses in the SEC last season it was hard for them to win games, even by scoring nearly 50 points a game when the daunting mess of a defense former defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri had created was giving up 51 points per game.
In 2012 Tennessee’s defense gave up 471 yards of offense each game. That’s almost like playing Oregon every week, who is averaging 643 yards per game on the offensive end this season.
While the Vols did have to endure a shellacking by the Ducks this season, they were able to hold them to only 10 first quarter points before Oregon’s offense exploded as usual. That ranks as the second best defensive performance in the first quarter against them all season (Washington only allowed seven first quarter points).
To this point in the season Tennessee’s defense is giving up 411 yards per game. Still a big number, but if you take away the 687 yards they gave up against Oregon, because it’s Oregon, they’ve only given up 366 yards of total offense per game in the other six games of the season. That’s good enough to rank them tied for 37th nationally in total defense.
As far as points given up per game last season the Vols defense gave up an average of 35.7 points per game, including two games of 51 points, 48 points to Troy, and even 41 to Vanderbilt. Through seven games this season they’ve given up only 27 points ranking them 66th nationally, but again if you take away the Oregon game they’ve only given up 21.7 points per game in the other six games which would rank them tied for 31st in scoring defense.
One of the biggest attributes to the new and improved Tennessee defense would be turnovers. The Vols are tied for 14th in the nation in turnovers gained with 17 takeaways, including 12 interceptions ranking them sixth in that category.
While they still have a tough road ahead, to say the very least, as they’ll face three straight opponents ranked in the top 11 nationally, Tennessee’s defense may very well be the difference maker in deciding whether the Vols have anymore upsets in them.
The saying is defense wins championships, and if new defensive coordinator John Jancek can continue to improve a once broken defense like he has to this point the Vols may well be on their way to one in the near future.