- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
To Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, changing to a new defensive scheme hasn't hampered his defense.
Effort for four quarters has.
Through five games, the Vols are 13th in the SEC in total defense, surrendering 425.8 yards per game, and join Arkansas as the only teams in the league to allow more than 2,000 offensive yards this season.
It's easy to point to the fact that new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri has installed a new 3-4 scheme, which could be slowing this defense down, but Dooley said on Wednesday that the scheme isn't the problem. It's consistency and toughness, or lack thereof.
"I don't care how much scheme you do, how advanced you get, how old you get, how young you are, good defensive football is about whipping the guy in front of you and running to the football, and that will never change," Dooley said.
Last week, Tennessee didn't do much of that against Georgia in a 51-44 loss to the Bulldogs. Tennessee gave up 560 yards of offense and allowed Georgia to average 8.8 yards per play.
Georgia's attack was boosted by the play of running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns. Touchdown runs of 75, 72 (both by Marshall) and 51 yards were particularly worrisome for Dooley when he looked at film.
"When they have three runs for over 200 yards, you can overcome any scheme with just playing good old effort and toughness," he said.
Dooley said his players fully comprehending the 3-4 is a work in progress, but he's not worried about that aspect of his defense. He wants to see tougher, more sound play from his guys. With the bye week here, Dooley is hoping the extra time is used wisely by his players to clean up some of the procedural issues hurting this defense.
The scheme isn't going away, but Dooley hopes the lack of consistency does.
4dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf