By Frank Gale
This season Coach Derek Dooley decided to go with the 3-4 defense, favored by new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, after Justin Wilcox left for the Pacific Northwest. Early this year, most of the Big Orange Nation welcomed the more aggressive style that Sunseri would bring from his previous coaching stop with Alabama. Now, many are reassessing those optimistic thoughts.
Injuries in the secondary and the normal struggles with a new defense aside, there is no excuse for the defense to continue to line up in the wrong positions. It was evident from the two losses to quality opponents that the Vols also lack the speed on defense to compensate for mistakes. Coach Dooley might be forced to play a less experienced player(s), especially in the secondary, to add that needed speed.
Fortunately, the Vols had this week to work on problems without preparing for a game Saturday. One priority certainly had to be a way to limit those crazy long scoring plays that have plagued this team all season. Until that is fixed, Tennessee will have problems upsetting the better SEC competition.
The Vols shocked the SEC last week when they were able to put up great offensive numbers against Georgia at home. Once again, the Vols scored enough points to win, but came up short where it matters, the scoreboard. If the defense improves a bit, the second half of the season could be a whole lot better for all concerned.
While the Vols work out some problems this week, the team to the west in Nashville will return to the SEC wars tomorrow. After getting chewed up by the Bulldogs two weeks ago, the Commodores now will try and keep from getting mauled by the Tigers at Missouri.
Enjoy the fall weekend and watch games without the anxiety that comes when the warriors from Rocky Top are involved. It all starts again next weekend in Starkville where the Vols, barring a miracle in Lexington by the Wildcats, will be facing yet another top 20 team. Go Vols!!!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)