Tennessee Football: What Is Really Causing the Vols Defensive Woes?

Jason Ellis@@JJasonEllisContributor IIINovember 6, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20:  Eddie Lacy #42 of the Alabama Crimson Tide breaks a tackle by Justin Coleman #27 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Tennessee Volunteers defense is performing at a record setting pace this season.  Unfortunately, that pace is to be the worst statistical defense in the storied history of this program.

To say this defense is a dumpster fire would be severely understating it.

The Vols rank near the bottom in most statistical categories in the FBS.  The most glaring are the rankings in points against and total defense:

  • 110th in points against; giving up 35.4 per game.
  • 112th in total defense; giving up 483 yards per game

These statistics are mind-boggling and maddening to the Volunteer faithful.  Most have given up hope for any kind of improvement in this defense, and it's hard to blame them for this thinking.

But what is really causing the defensive woes?

Several things have been looked at as the cause for these defensive problems, primarily being the change to the 3-4 and the hiring of Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator.

Those are both valid concerns to be looked at.

With the 3-4, it's always stated that the real progress is seen in the second year of the system.  This is true, but there is also some improvement during the first season.

None has been made by this defense.

It has also been well-stated that this is Sunseri's first as a defensive coordinator calling plays.  But not all of the blame can go to this, and that leads to what is really causing the problems with the defense.

The players.

To be more specific, it all comes down to the players executing the defense that is called by Sunseri.  

It has been well-stated that the defense has been simplified to the point that it can't be simplified any more.

This all leads to another question:  Is this group of players talented enough to be successful in this type of defense?

The way things are now, the answer is an emphatic no.

It's easy to see this; all you have to do is look.

The defensive line appear to be incapable of getting off of blocks to get to the quarterback.  This is evident by the fact that they recorded zero sacks against Troy, even though they out-sized Troy's offensive line.

The linebackers never seem to know where they're supposed to be.  This results in many big plays over the middle.

The secondary is probably the worst unit on this defense.  They have the ability to make any opposing receiver look like an All-American.  

They have shifted different players in and out of the lineup to no avail.  They just continue to get torched by the opposition.

To answer the question of what is causing the Vols defensive woes again, it's the players.  

A statement like this, however, tends to lead into more questions.

New scheme?  New coach?  In the end it comes down to more than desire, it's all based on skill. There are some talented individual players on this team, but there is not enough skill as a whole to be successful.