KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop believes the Volunteers have been really strong on 95 percent of their defensive snaps this season.
Despite missing a trio of All-SEC performers (linebackers Darrin Kirkland and Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton) for various parts of all four games this season, Shoop’s “Orange Swarm” ranks No. 4 in total defense in the SEC — allowing 353 yards a game. They’ve been solid on third down (33.9 percent) and are among the conference leaders in takeaways with eight.
“It’s a credit to the players on the field,” Shoop said.
However, even with the injuries Tennessee’s defense hasn’t fulfilled its full potential, Shoop says.
The first-year coordinator is looking to correct a dirty dozen of plays that will take the unit from good to great.
“We’ve had 285 snaps this year,” Shoop explained.
“And 273 have been darn good snaps, but 12 have been really, really bad. Those 12 plays have accounted for a significant amount of yardage. It’s been three snaps a game. If we eliminate those three bad snaps, we’ve got a good unit out there.”
Against Florida, Tennessee surrendered 300 yards in the first half — 130 on just three plays. Eye discipline was an issue, leading to a lineup change in the secondary. After halftime, the Vols suffocated the Gators, forcing five-straight 3-and-outs and an interception.
On the season, Shoop’s unit is dominating second-halves, as UT has outscored foes 87-24 after halftime.
“If you give up long passes and you have penalties on defense, that’s what’s hurt us,” Shoop said.
“If we can eliminate those things, we’re going to be a really, really good defense.”