Work in progress

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After nearly three full weeks of spring practice Sal Sunseri's new 3-4 defense is still a work in progress.

Newly converted Tennessee linebacker Jacques Smith has taken the test on the Volunteers new defense and he is passing, but isn't quite acing the subject.

"I would say about 81 percent," Smith said of his knowledge of the new defense. "There's so much within that defense that just flips and flops and definitely all the sub packages that we have.

"It's a lot of learning, and it's definitely a class. Every single day after my classes I've been coming up here and studying with Sal and all of our defenses coaches, and just learning what my main assignments are and my main objectives on each and every single play and knowing the little details within the defense."

After spending his freshman and sophomore seasons at defensive end Smith is now getting new life at the JACK linebacker position, which could be the most complicated role in Sunseri's scheme.

"It feels a lot better; I feel a lot more comfortable," Smith said of the move. "At first, when you're at linebacker you've got the sensibility that `okay, I'm the person that's supposed to make the tackle.' That's like the simplistic view of football, but whenever it comes down to it, you're just one guy out of 11 that just has a job.

"In order to do your job, you're going to have to follow the rules that Coach Sal has set within the defense. Just by studying and going over and over and repping that rules and assignments, you begin to just, the stress level just begins to minimize as you continue on."

Smith, who had one tackle and two passes broken up in the Vols first scrimmage of the spring, says the defense will have to act independently in their second scrimmage of the spring.

"(Coach Sal) definitely wants to see a lot more energy and confidence that we know what we are doing," Smith said. "I know there is going to be a lot more communication amongst us on the field and less screaming from the sidelines. He wants to see what we can do and our knowledge of the defense so far."

Head coach Derek Dooley added that the defensive scheme will be scaled back in order to see where the new front excels in scrimmage two, which has Smith and the Vols defense pumped up for Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

"I think there will be a lot more energy on the defensive side," Smith said. "I think we'll be a lot more confident because we've studied so much. Also, he's actually made the play calls around what are defense has run best so far in the spring. So, it's going to be a lot of fun and a lot of confident guys on the field."

The Vols will host a closed scrimmage Saturday at 1 p.m. in Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner talks about preparing for more contact work below:

Tennessee sophomore linebacker Curt Maggitt talks about settling into the new defensive scheme below:

Chris Price is a staff writer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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