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Film Study: Barnett’s Dominance Opening Up Opportunities

Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI
Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

Tennessee senior defensive end Corey Vereen recorded his second multiple-sack game in his career on Saturday against Kentucky.

Vereen made a nice play each time, getting around the edge and dragging quarterback Stephen Johnson down twice. Vereen is quietly putting together a solid senior season with a career-high six sacks, 9.5 TFLs and 32 tackles.

And while Vereen deserves plenty of credit, a fair amount of the praise also has to go to the other side, where Derek Barnett is closing in on UT’s all-time school sack record held by Reggie White, but is having to fight through double and triple teams to get there.

“I mean it can be a little frustrating,” Barnett said on Saturday after recording his 30th career sack, leaving him two short of tying the school record. “I mean, you got to keep grinding. The pass rush is difficult, so just keep working to get home. It doesn’t frustrate me when other people make plays like Vereen. He was balling today. He had a great performance, so when my teammates are eating it doesn’t frustrate me.”

After watching the film, Butch Jones said that the level of attention Kentucky paid to Barnett was unprecedented.

“There were a number of times in looking at the game film it was the first time I’ve seen where actually a guy on the edge was triple teamed,” Jones said on Monday. “And I told him, ‘don’t get frustrated – that’s a compliment to your abilities.'”

A closer look show that Barnett was, indeed, the focus of two to three blockers when Vereen recorded his sacks.

Whether or not Barnett gets those final two or three sacks to tie or break White’s school record, he’s clearly making his mark as one of the top defensive players in school history. He’ll likely parlay that into being a first-round selection this spring, assuming he leaves Tennessee a year early as most expect.

“We all know what he is comprised of in terms of competition character,” Jones added. “He’s a dominant football player and he works to be a dominant football player every single day. There are no days off in the life of Derek Barnett.”

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