2013 College Blitz - UT between the lines - Defense

2013 College Blitz - UT between the lines - Defense

August 25th, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sportscollege

Defensive tackle McCullers anchors the Vols front seven.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

DEFENSE

*signifies a returning starter

DE

*Jacques Smith, Sr., 6-2, 243

Jordan Williams, Jr., 6-5, 260

DT

*Daniel McCullers, Sr., 6-8, 351

*Mo Couch, R-Sr., 6-2, 304

DT

Daniel Hood, R-Sr., 6-4, 277

Danny O'Brien, R-Fr., 6-2, 287

DE

*Marlon Walls, R-Sr., 6-2, 272

Corey Miller, Sr., 6-3, 265

LB

Starter: Dontavis Sapp, Sr., 6-2, 227

Backup: John Propst, Sr., 6-0, 219

LB

Starter: *A.J. Johnson, Jr., 6-2, 243

Backup: Kenny Bynum, 6-1, 247

LB

Starter: *Curt Maggitt, Jr., 6-3, 242

Backup: Brent Brewer, Sr., 6-1, 221

CB

Starter: *Justin Coleman, Jr., 5-10, 184

Backup: Malik Foreman, Fr., 5-10, 177

S

Starter: *Brian Randolph, R-So., 6-0, 199

Backup: Max Arnold, R-So., 6-2, 215

S

Starter: *LaDarrell McNeil, So., 6-1, 199

Backup: *Byron Moore, R-Sr., 6-0, 208

CB

Starter: Cameron Sutton, Fr., 6-1, 180

Backup: Michael Williams, R-Fr., 5-11, 171

K

Starter: *Michael Palardy, Sr., 5-11, 185

Backup: George Bullock, R-Fr., 6-0, 207

P

Starter: *Michael Palardy, Sr., 5-11, 185

Backup: Matt Darr, R-Jr., 6-1, 220

KR

Starter: Devrin Young, Jr., 5-8, 171

Backup: Pig Howard, So., 5-8, 185

PR

Starter: Devrin Young, Jr., 5-8, 171

Backup: Pig Howard, So., 5-8, 185

BREAKDOWN

Tennessee's senior-laden defensive line has plenty of experience, but production needs to improve. The Vols lack a true pass-rush threat, as the Vols return only seven sacks from last season. Coaches were excited about freshman Corey Vereen before a preseason knee injury sidelined him, but big defensive tackle Daniel McCullers is perhaps the key to the entire defense.

The line's six seniors are prideful group hoping to lead the Vols back to better days.

"[Jones] meets with the seniors, and he tells us we've got one last chance to right the wrongs that have gone on here the past three years," end Corey Miller said. "Either you're going to buy in and get it done, or you're just going to let it slip. I feel like we owe it to Tennessee and owe it to ourselves to get some wins."

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One of the Vols' best playmakers defensively, Curt Maggitt likely won't start the season at 100 percent recovered from a torn ACL. That could mean more snaps for Brent Brewer, a former safety like Dontavis Sapp, who Jones has raved about all offseason. Behind those four, though, the depth at linebacker is a little dicey, though freshman Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a nice prospect.

It's all about the man in the middle, though, and Tennessee needs A.J. Johnson to become a more disruptive player.

"He's got to take ownership of the defense," defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "He's the middle linebacker; that's a badge of honor. We challenge A.J. daily to be more vocal and [be] that inspirational leader that we're looking for."

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The return of Randolph ought to be enough to give a unit that was 111th against the pass last season a boost. Byron Moore started every game last season and finished second on the team in tackles. LaDarrell McNeil is a talented player who played extensively as a freshman.

The Vols' situation at cornerback, though, is much more dire. Tennessee has no other choice but to rely on freshmen Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman to play immediately. Sutton's preseason play has put him in line to start.

"Cam especially has a really good demeanor," Jancek said. "He doesn't get too frustrated. He's not too up, he's not too low and I think he's got the right demeanor if you're going to play a freshman because they're going to take some lumps."

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Michael Palardy has been up-and-down throughout his Tennessee career, but he's feeling confident he can be a reliable kicker in games as a senior.

"It's definitely gotten a lot better," he said of his confidence. "I know this year it's the best it's ever been, just being able to go out on the field and hit the ball the way I know how to. That's what I've been really shooting for, is not have to worry about making a mistake and going out there and doing what I love to do."

Tennessee's return game figures to experience a drop-off with the electric Cordarrelle Patterson in the NFL, but Devrin Young and Pig Howard are shifty players with the speed to break big returns.