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UT’s Sunseri Trying To Get His Vol Defense Back To The Basics

What do you do you when your defense is on a record-setting pace in terms of yards allowed (in the wrong way)?  What do you do when your squad gives up a combined 1,115 in back-to-back SEC games?

You get back to basics, says first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri:


“You want to get back to make sure you’re tackling properly, you’re chasing the football, you’re playing routes.  This was a great (off) week for us to get better.  We’re going to get better, but we’re not near where we need to be…

The other day we had too many explosive plays, not enough people flying to the football, and that’s what hurt us.”


Sunseri and head coach Derek Dooley continue to say that the problem in Knoxville is one of fundamentals.  But their defensive players repeatedly cite communication issues as being a part of the problem — recognizing an offensive set, processing the information, calling out the defense, and then processing that info, too.

Derek Dooley wanted more turnovers and Sunseri’s new 3-4 scheme is providing them (12 so far).  But the Vols are also allowing a staggering 425 yards per contest (with only Arkansas yielding more ground).  Last year under Justin Wilcox’s leadership and a 4-3 system, Tennessee allowed just 340.5 yards per game with a much younger group of players.  The downside?  The 2011 Vols recorded just 18 turnovers over the course of the entire season.

Dooley picked his poison in terms of switching from the safer 4-3 to the more aggressive, but riskier 3-4.  He did so knowing that it usually takes a full year before teams show big improvements in a new 3-4 scheme… and that he himself might not have another year at Tennessee if this one doesn’t go well.

Meanwhile, Wilcox took his 4-3 defense to Washington where the Huskies currently rank #21 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 315 yards per game.  The Huskies also have eight turnovers.

For the sake of Dooley and Sunseri, the work on fundamentals and basics during this open week had better start paying dividends soon.


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Dooley is a fool.  If he even survives this year, he won't survive the next.  The most important question for UT is who they will hire next, and more than likely THAT coach won't be worth much either.

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