Regardless of its offense's struggles since October, the Tennessee defense hasn't pointed fingers and understands that if it pitched more shutouts, the Volunteers would have a better record.
Tennessee takes on Kentucky this weekend and aims to post its second goose egg of the season in order to assure an appearance in a bowl game.
The Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rivals kick off at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexingtoon, Ky., on Saturday afternoon at 12:21 EST (TV: SEC Network).
The Volunteers (5-6, 1-6 SEC) are working with a makeshift secondary considering what they thought they had back in February after National Letter of Intent day. Eddrick Loften never made it into school. Tino Thomas was forced to grayshirt. Geraldo Orta is heading toward a redshirt. Three players switch positions. Janzen Jackson was dismissed. Brent Brewer suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Against Vanderbilt last weekend, Tennessee saw both starting safeties go down with mild injuries.
"The day after Signing Day you see all those DBs who were pretty good players and you feel pretty good about where you'll be at going through spring and getting into training camp," Tennessee secondary coach Terry Joseph said. "Here we sit at the end of November and probably down to seven healthy guys and probably five guys that you'd put in the game right now two days before we play.
"It's been a whirlwind. We've been able to handle it rather smoothly because we have some guys who have some versatility."
Brian Randolph suffered a mild concussion during the overtime victory over Vanderbilt. The freshman safety hasn't had any contact this week, has shown some improvement, but it still listed as day-to-day.
Prentiss Waggner, who has spent time at both cornerback and safety, left the Vanderiblt game early as well but has practiced much of this week in a no-contact jersey.
The Vols are preparing in case they see two quarterbacks out of Kentucky in Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton. Smith appears to have taken the reins as the starter, going nearly the entire way in the 19-10 loss to Georgia last week in which he completed 17 of 34 passes with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Regardless of who's slingin' it for the Big Blue, the top target to haul balls in is La'Rod King, who leads the team with 39 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns.
Accumulating takeaways was hardly a positive for the Big Orange early in the season but intercepting Commodore quarterback Jordan Rodgers three times was a step in the right direction.
"We've played more zone coverage, and when you play zone coverage you get more interceptions," Joseph said. "That's helped out, but I also think the guys who hadn't played a lot early in the season are a lot more comfortable in what we're doing. Unfortunately, a lot of them have had to switch positions and play with new guys. We never really could get into a flow."
Leading the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6) in the ground game is former walk-on Coshik Williams. The Hiram, Ga., native has become the team's top ballcarrier the last five games, averaging 71.2 rushing yards per game over that time. Williams was held to 11 yards on eight carries by Georgia. Raymond Sanders carried the rock seven times for 37 yards.
A week after allowing Arkansas to pile up 254 rushing yards, Tennessee held Vanderbilt to a net of 90.
To learn more about how the Vols plan on scheming up Kentucky, check out the video interview with coordinator Justin Wilcox below:
"Nothing motivates an athlete more than losing their ability to play," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "It's my responsibility to put the guys out there that I think can best help us win the game."
One player who has taken that mantra and climbed the depth chart is defensive end Willie Bohannon, who earned a start last week. Hear Bohannon speak in this interview after Tuesday's practice at Haslam Field: