Putting in the work

The Tennessee Volunteers have now entered the third week of spring football and defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's 3-4 defense is beginning to take shape.

The new scheme has forced linebackers, defensive linemen and defensive backs alike off the field and into the classroom in order to find a comfort level come game time.

"I think they are progressing very well," coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday. "First of all, they like what we're doing. They have a belief and confidence in the coaching that they're getting. They're putting in a lot of work outside of football to try to learn it."

Right out the gate the Vols defenders were swimming in a pool of new defensive terms and information, but following several weeks of practice the scheme has been scaled back to make way for fast play.

"I'm very pleased with the commitment level they're putting in there to get it," Dooley said. "It's just something that's going to take time, experience and reps. We have to do a good job as coaches when we get to game week to make sure that we're playing fast and confident."

One player that is adjusting to the ever-evolving Tennessee defense is newly converted JACK linebacker Jordan Williams, who is now up off the ground as a stand-up backer.

"Down at the defensive end position, depending on the defense — you could be playing tackle, you could be playing end, you could be playing on the tight end, it all depends — I was always down in the trenches," Williams said. "They want me to stand up more so I can use my athleticism better at the JACK position."

Sunseri's defense has been is a lot of work, but is paying dividends on the field already against the Tennessee offense.

"It's a lot to learn, but it's just giving us a lot of options for the season," Williams said. "(The offensive line) was talking to us about that. They were saying they don't know who's coming or when it's coming. It's always a surprise."

Former Freshman All-American A.J. Johnson has also noticed the versatility in the Vols' new scheme in just three short weeks.

"It gives us more room to play, to blitz or drop back and make plays instead of just having to sit in one spot and drop to one area," Johnson said. "The offense doesn't really know where we are coming from or whether we are sliding or not. We can switch up the protection on them and get in and out of changes so fast that it confuses them."

To hear more from Johnson following Tuesday morning's workout, click play below:

Hear Herman Lathers and Maurice Couch touch on the schematic transition, along with some footage of members of the front seven at work this spring:

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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