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It all starts on the defensive front with mammoth nose tackle Daniel McCullers. At 6-foot-8, 365 pounds, McCullers isn't a tackling machine, but he eats up space and can be very disruptive. He does a good job of taking on double teams and getting penetration, but he can struggle at times in pursuit. Jacques Smith, Corey Miller, and Marlon Walls have all played the defensive end position on a regular basis for the Vols in 2014, and all have been effective at times. Smith and Miller are quick, athletic edge rushers that can wreak havoc if they are allowed to shoot gaps while Walls has proven to be one of the defense's best playmakers in 2013 with four tackles for a loss on the season. Also keep an eye on senior defensive tackle Daniel Hood. Hood mans the position next to McCullers and he has shown that he has the quickness to penetrate and cause problems for the offense. This group, as a whole, has struggled to rush the passer, but the Tennessee defensive front plays with a great deal of energy and can force turnovers through backside pursuit.
A.J. Johnson mans the middle linebacker position for the Volunteers and he is one of the most productive players in the SEC. Johnson is a big, physical type of inside linebacker that is great against the run. He does a great job of taking on blocks downhill, and shedding them to get to the ball carrier. Johnson does struggle in coverage and in getting to the edge. Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer man the other two linebacker positions for the Vols and their games are quite similar. Both are fast, athletic linebackers that can play sideline to sideline and are solid in space. Brewer is a very good coverage linebacker that does a good job with running backs in the passing game while.
This group is led by safety Brian Randolph. The Kell High School product is the team leader in tackles with 7.4 stops per game. He also leads the team in interceptions with three on the season. Randolph is a rangy safety that covers a lot of ground. He can man up on a receiver occasionally, but he is best when asked to play centerfield and read the quarterback's eyes. The other safety, LaDarrell McNeil, has also been good. McNeil is fourth on the team in tackles with 4.2 stops per game, and he has an interception as well. The cornerback positions are manned by a couple of long athletes that can make plays on the ball in freshman Cameron Sutton and junior Justin Coleman. Both have interceptions for touchdowns this season and neither is afraid to get involved in run support. Both have struggled mightily at times in 2013 when they are put on an island in man coverage.
• 1st Down - Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek tends to not bring pressure on first down as he only brings the extra man 23% of the time.
• 2nd Down and long (7 or more yards) - The Vols have brought the blitz in this scenario 47% of the time in 2013.
• 2nd Down and medium (4 to 6 yards) - This, too, is a blitz heavy down for Jancek and company as the Vols have brought the extra guy 48% of the time.
• 2nd Down and short (less than 4 yards) - This is a heavy slant and stunt down for Tennessee (59%).
• 3rd Down and long - This is also a blitz heavy down (57%) and Jancek likes to bring interior pressure on third and long.
• Third down and medium - This is a strong zone down for the Volunteers as they are looking to force a punt. Jancek rarely brings the blitz (17%).
• Third down and short - Just like second and short, third and as many yards is a heavy slant or stunt down for the defense (68%).
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