Tennessee Football 2011: 7 Best Defensive Players on the Volunteers' Roster

John WhiteCorrespondent IIIJuly 6, 2011

Tennessee Football 2011: 7 Best Defensive Players on the Volunteers' Roster

0 of 7

    When the game is on the line, it's important to have as many players as possible who know what to do when the ball is snapped.

    Whether it's adjusting to audibles, making sure you have the right number of players on the field, saving the game with an open field tackle or reaching for the skies to snatch away a first-down pass, there are a handful of players defensive coordinators depend on each game. '

    These players keep the DC on the head coach's good side and the fans begging for more.

    Here are seven of Tennessee's best defensive players going into the 2011 college football season.

Brent Brewer, S

1 of 7

    Nobody really knew what to expect form Brewer when he left minor league baseball to become a Vol.

    Everyone knew he was an athlete, but some questioned his motives—and of course there was a little trouble with the domestic abuse allegation. 

    Despite those problems, along with other teammates, he has also embraced all things orange and put his past behind him.

    Coming out of spring practice Brewer received the Most Improved Player award for his continuing efforts to regain those dormant defensive skills unused in baseball, and he is succeeding; even his fellow teammates will heartily agree he is a very serious, hard-hitting player.

    Brewer was used on a limited basis last season since freshmen were rotated frequently to get their feet wet, and he really didn't see action until the Alabama game. After that game, he netted 20 solo tackles with 10 assists. He also managed to penetrate for TFL, hurried the QB once and broke up three pass plays.

    Brewer is super fast, flirting with a 4.35 40, and he can hit hard enough to hear it over the crowd. This season will be his coming out party.

Raicques Crump, LB

2 of 7

    Crump is listed behind Daryl Vereen on the depth chart, but don't let that fool you; Crump can step in where Nick Reveiz left off.

    What made Reveiz so good was that he was a good field officer; that made up for any weaknesses in his athletic ability because he always knew where to be. That's why he was the team's leading tackler—not because he was Junior Seau.

    Crump is the same way; he immediately draws to the ball. If Curt Maggitt doesn't steal the show this summer, I would expect to see Crump start with the first kickoff.

Marsalis Teague, CB

3 of 7

    Wait, I thought he was a receiver?

    Yes, you were correct.

    After switching last season, Teague became the defense's No.8 tackler.

    After Janzen Jackson left, it sort of threw a wrench into the machinations of the secondary. Luckily there was a versatile player in Teague to ease some of the pain.

    Teague accumulated 29 solo tackles and 17 assists with eight broken pass plays last season. What the stats don't tell you is that when he was on the field, he swam in the passing lanes and forced receivers into the waiting arms of safeties and LB's.

    He was an unsung hero on the defense last year, and by 2011's end, he will be All-SEC.

Daniel Hood, DL

4 of 7

    Now before you guys get anxious and start wondering whether or not your guy is gonna make the list, it's important to remember that even great players have to start somewhere, and if this doesn't come to light, you can dismiss everything else I write. Fair enough?

    Where was I? Oh yeah.

    Hood is what you expect to see when an emerging DL takes the field.

    He is big, he's powerful and he's agile. I'm expecting his coming out party against Cincinnati. Their offensive line is something of a measuring stick for the Big East, so it will be a good time to gauge his ability further.

    Expect 3-5 solo tackles against Montana and 4-6 solos against Cincinnati. Of course if the Bearcats abandon the run early though, that total will be substantially lower.

Austin Johnson, LB

5 of 7

    Had it not been for Herman Lathers' injury he would be in this spot, but don't let that diminish your opinion of Austin Johnson.

    Johnson is not as fast as the other guys, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in strength and power. You might ask why I didn't list Greg King, but the answer is simple.

    Remember that "Swarm-to-the-ball" philosophy Wilcox preaches? Johnson understands the dynamics better.

    He'll get to the ball quicker and execute the tackle more efficiently for more tackles. Expect him to increase last year's 22 solo tackles and 22 assists by a third.

Malik Jackson, DE

6 of 7

    The No.6 tackler of last season is my favorite. Why? I'm sure you can USC the answer.

    All joking aside, he is the example of passionate play. Jackson plays every single play like it was for a championship. He was a bit outmatched going up against rotund SEC O-linemen last season, but he did manage to get an interception, which he ran back for 44 yards, and he also netted 11 TFL.

    Now for the fun stuff.

    Everybody knows Jackson has aspirations to be in the NFL. So in order for him to do that, he will need to shine. He is proportionately strong in the upper and lower body with great spin moves. This gives him an angle to penetrate between those hefty guys up front.

    By summer, you could see Jackson topping out between 285-290 lbs. That extra weight won't be flab, so expect an easier season for Jackson all around.

Prentiss Waggner, S

7 of 7

    This, my friends, is the definition of "Johnny Ballgame." Without Janzen Jackson, Waggner assumes the role of top dog on the defense.

    I have printed this a lot so forgive the redundancy.

    Waggner is a tremendous spy. He smoked the Vols' secondary corps. with five interceptions—three of which were returned for touchdowns—and four broken pass plays last season. Waggner also managed to recover two fumbles—bolted for 45 yards on those—and sneaked into the backfield twice for TFL.

    The passing lanes are his territory, and opposition should never throw in his direction because he is truly evolving as a player. He had to last year due to Eric Berry's departure, and he had to depend more on his talents; this year he will do it again because Janzen Jackson is not a definite thing.

    Sadly though this may be Waggner's last season, as I expect the lure of big dollars to sway him from a fourth season. It's bittersweet, isn't it?