Tennessee Defense Leads the SEC in Several Key Categories

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    Tennessee Defense

    The Tennessee defense is leading the SEC in tackles for loss heading into Week 9. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

    Originally thought to be a weakness going into the season, Tennessee’s defense has really stepped up to the plate through eight games. Led by defensive coordinator Tim Banks, Tennessee’s defense has played a tough, relentless, and aggressive style of football. In fact, it has been the Vols’ defense that has kept them in certain games, like Ole Miss in particular.

    One of the areas that Tennessee has excelled in this year has been in its pursuit of the football – especially behind the line of scrimmage.

    Currently, Tennessee’s defense ranks first in the SEC and third in the country in total tackles for loss. According to the NCAA’s official website, Tennessee has 59 total tackles for loss on the year, which is an average of 7.4 per game.

    Through eight weeks, Tennessee’s defense tops the SEC in solo tackles for loss (43), assisted tackles for loss (32), total tackles for loss (59), and tackles for loss per game (7.4). Additionally, Tennessee is tied with Alabama for the most tackle yards in the SEC (216).

    Judging from the statistics, Tennessee is one of, if not the best team in the SEC at bringing the ball carrier down behind the line of scrimmage. The credit goes to Tennessee’s stout defensive line in combination with smart play from the linebackers and defensive backs.

    Tennessee defense

    Tennessee’s Matthew Butler on the defensive line. Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI.

    One thing that Tennessee has done well this year, especially when it comes to plays around the line of scrimmage, is swarming the ball. Heupel, Banks, and the other defensive coaches are getting a tremendous amount of effort from the defense through the whistle as Tennessee players are constantly running towards the ball.

    When looking at the conference’s defensive statistics as a whole, Tennessee does drop down a bit. The Vols are 10th in the SEC in yards allowed per game (393.8). However, Tennessee has played the three teams with the most yards per game in the SEC (Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama).

    The Vols have been better against the run than the pass, though, which makes sense in connection with Tennessee’s TFL statistics. Tennessee is 8th in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game (144.4) and 13th in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game (249.4).

    However, the Vols do sit at third in the SEC in turnover margin, which is right at +5.

    The Vols will rest this weekend during their bye week, however, will be back on the field for Week 10 in a road game against Kentucky.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.