KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s defensive line received plenty of criticism in the first month of the season.
Most recently, the Vols gave up 294 yards on the ground in the 41-0 loss to Georgia on Saturday. This doesn’t fall completely on the defensive line, of course. But when two of the most highly touted players on the team — Kahlil McKenzie and Jonathan Kongbo — make up part of the unit, it can become an easy target.
The defense typically has players in the right position; according to McKenzie the issue is consistent breakdowns.
“It’s execution,” McKenzie told the media after practice Tuesday. “It’s nine or 10 guys doing the right thing and one or two guys messing up. That’s football, you know. You’ve got to execute more than the other team. If the other team can execute better, harder and longer than you, it’s hard to come out with a win.”
McKenzie mentioned the issue twice in the seven-minute interview. He said Georgia made the winning plays throughout the game, while the Vols came up short.
“Just not executing, they executed better and competed time and time again,” McKenzie said. “That’s how football is, it comes down to who can sustain the execution that longest.”
The defensive has two weeks to fix its issues before taking the field once against South Carolina on Oct. 14. Improving during the bye week stretch will be critical for Tennessee’s success moving forward.
“There’s always room for improvement,” McKenzie said. “[Defensive line] Coach [Brady] Hoke always talks about getting better every week. There will always be things we do wrong and things we did well. It’s just back to the film and to see the things we didn’t do well on.”
The defense did show some bright spots in the loss to Georgia to build off of. Georgia’s first 7 runs went for a combined 7 yards. The defense just wore down through the course of the game.
Georgia won the time of possession battle by nearly 9 minutes.
Jones preaches the importance of playing complementary football, and the defense could benefit from a few more long drives by the offense.