KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s defense began strong but faded fast down the stretch last season.
The Vols gave up 2,301 yards and 142 points in the final four games of 2016.
Now, Tennessee enters the 2017 season featuring a defense more comfortable with the playbook in defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s second season in the program.
Tennessee defense: More comfortable in Year 2
Senior linebacker Colton Jumper said after practice Tuesday he can see improvement in the defense thus far in fall camp.
“Anytime you can have another year of getting to know somebody, their tendencies and how they like to call stuff that’ll definitely help,” Jumper said. “It has helped us a lot. We are a lot more comfortable out there with coach Shoop from Year 1 to 2.”
Tennessee needs Jumper’s words to be true … and then translate to the field.
Even though Shoop has only one year with the Vols under his belt, the national media has already attacked his unit’s performance.
Former Vanderbilt quarterback and current SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers criticized the Tennessee players’ inability to grasp Shoop’s defensive playbook thus far.
“Bob Shoop speaks his defense in the language of calculus,” Rodgers said at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., last month. “[Tennessee] is in long division right now, at best.”
But the defense has performed well through the early stages of fall camp. Just ask head coach Butch Jones.
“I really liked the way our defense swarmed the football,” Jones said after the third practice of camp. “I liked them hunting the ball and their ball disruptions.”
The mentality to “swarm” the ball might be what Team 121’s defense becomes known for by the season’s end.
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Darrell Taylor said before the Vols’ third practice this defense has a lot of energy.
“I think our defense has a lot of energy guys,” he said. “We are going to be able to run around and make a lot of plays, and we are able to swarm to the ball. We have a great effort.”
The defense should be able to play quicker and attack more with a year of experience in Shoop’s system under the belt.