To say this season's Tennessee defense was a dumpster fire would be an insult to dumpster fires. This defense was just awful. So awful, in fact, that it ranked 107th in the nation in points against, giving up 35.7 points per game.
The reasons behind this have been talked about over and again. My original take on the problems with the defense was the players.
With more time to look at it, that's not entirely the case.
The coaching has more than a little to do with it. In hindsight, the hiring of Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator was a horrible idea, but that couldn't have been known going in. The fact that he only had experience as a position coach at this level should have said something, but it couldn't have been predicted.
The performance of the defense, among other factors, left the university no choice but to fire head coach, Derek Dooley. Now the Vols are in search of a replacement to lead the program into its next era.
Many are calling this the most important hire in the history of Tennessee football, and they're not far off.
The program is at a crossroads with two ways for it to go. It can move back to the upper echelon of the SEC or it can continue their current downward spiral.
That is what makes this hire so pivotal.
More than that, this hiring process needs to be focused on defensive-minded coaches.
The reason behind this is simple, it takes an excellent defense to compete in both the SEC and on a national level.
To prove this, you have to look no farther than the top rankings from this season. The teams on the top have one thing in common; stellar defenses.
Let's take a look at these teams:
- Notre Dame- Ranked first in points against, 10.3 per game
- Alabama- Ranked second in points against, 10.7 per game
- Florida- Ranked third in points against, 12.9 per game
The top three ranked teams in the BCS standings rank 1-3 in the amount of points they give up per game. This is no mere coincidence.
You can go back through the past several seasons and these rankings will look much the same.
The old adage that says, "defense wins championships" isn't a cliche, it's pure fact. Champions just have stellar defenses.
Everyone wants their team is to compete at a high level. If the Volunteers are going to get back to that level, then defense is the way for them to do it.