Tennessee Football 2013 Spring Game: Defensive Adjustments Vols Must Make

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIApril 21, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) during the first half of the spring Orange and White game at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers had a historically bad defense in 2012. They gave up at least 38 points for seven straight games at one point, so any improvement is a good improvement. But just improving isn't good enough. To compete, the Vols need to make defensive adjustments from the Orange and White Game.

Feed Vereen

First things first, Corey Vereen needs to continue to be developed, trained and built, because he has star potential. The 17-year-old early enrollee tallied four sacks and wreaked havoc all over the field whenever he was in the game.

The coaches correctly repositioned him from linebacker to defensive end very early on this spring. I see a lot of Jacques Smith in Vereen—speed, athleticism, tenacity—but Smith has underperformed during his Vol career. Don't make the same mistake again, even if this is a new coaching staff!


Force More Turnovers

Besides a nice interception by Brian Randolph (great to see he's over the knee injury), Tennessee's forced just one other turnover all day: a pick-six from walk-on Max Arnold in garbage time.

While some of the sacks that the Volunteers racked up could've potentially resulted in fumbles, I wouldn't bank on it. Vereen was a one-man wrecking crew in the backfield, but there was very little ball-hawking otherwise.

Turnovers win games in big moments. Just look at the closing drives of last year's Georgia and South Carolina games.

Justin Coleman and Riyahd Jones are most likely the starting cornerbacks. I don't see either as intercepting types, so the formula may be to garner an effective pass rush and let the dynamic safety duo of Randolph and Byron Moore take care of the rest.


Big Plays Still a Problem

The biggest problem with the 2012 defense was the allowance of big plays. The secondary, in particular, had issues with blown assignments and, in some cases, not even understanding their roles in the 3-4 scheme.

That's no longer an excuse and wasn't too much of a problem Saturday. Still, two passing plays of 48 and 58 yards were reminiscent of last year. The 58-yard winding touchdown catch-and-run of Cody Blanc was troubling because there were several missed tackles and bad angles taken.

Defensive coordinator John Jancek is obsessive about fundamentals, which sorely lacked at times. The only defensive adjustment needed here is more of them.


But the best defensive adjustment of all was the new coaching staff.