Defensive front will determine Vols success

How good will this Tennessee Football team will be this fall? That's the question every Volunteer Football Fan is wondering and asking with the season opener 75 Days from today. InsideTennessee.com takes a look at some major issues that will help determine the Vols record this fall.

How good will this Tennessee Football team will be this fall?

That's the question every Volunteer Football Fan is wondering and asking with the season opener 75 Days from today.

One of the main factors on how good this football team comes down to one major area, that area being the Vol's defensive front four or five depending on what defense they run.

With the recent dismissal of Montori Hughes, one of the Vols veterans at the defensive tackle, depth is a word not muttered when discussing the Vols defensive line.

Hughes, which ended up being a Huge disappointment the last two seasons, has stayed in Derek Dooley's dog house since Dooley's arrival. Hughes never lived up to expectations or potential many Vol fans had.

The one big positive at the defensive tackle position is the addition of former USC Trojan Malik Jackson.

Jackson performed above his expectations last fall and is listed as one of the top defensive tackles in the country in several pre-season magazines. The only negative about Jackson is his overall size, but he held up well last fall, can he do it again this upcoming season.

The summer arrival of Maurice "Mo" Couch is vital for the success of the Vols this fall. Couch needs to be as good as advertised for Tennessee to have a chance of improving over last year's record.

Another big question mark will be the health status of super sophomore defensive end Jacques Smith. Smith had a breakout season last fall and was headed for a great season this fall before injuring his leg this spring.

Will Smith be healthy and a 100 percent this fall? He definitely needs to be. The Vols have several weapons at defensive end, but maybe none more explosive than Smith.

Another big factor on how good the Vols will be this fall is how the transition of offensive lineman Daniel Hood to the defensive front works out.

Hood has worked hard in the off season and has put on a lot of good weight. He was extremely pleased with his progress and the position change in the fall. He needs to have a good fall camp and a good season to add to the Vols depth.

Two other guys who need to step up big for Tennessee this fall is junior Willie Bohanon and true sophomore Corey Miller. Miller has the most potential out of the pair and needs to contribute in a big way this season.

Joseph Ayers, a walk on defensive tackle, ended up being a very pleasant surprise for the Vols last fall.

Another important factor to consider when taking a deep look at the Vols defensive front is the switch Dooley made on his coaching staff.

Former Vol linebacker coach Lance Thompson has been named UT's new defensive line coach, expect this group to be better prepared and more fundamentally sound than they were last fall.

Thompson is a veteran SEC coach, who has coached at Tennessee, Alabama and LSU.

Thompson's transition appeared to be a huge positive this spring. Look for this unit to continue to improve under his watch.

Tennessee must have solid play from its defensive front for the Vols to have marked improvement this fall. Another key to this question will be the play of the linebackers.

We will take a look at this position next.


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