Sack or no sack?

InsideTennessee is the best place on The Internet to follow the Vols. Sign in or subscribe now to read this analysis of the defensive play in Tennessee's first scrimmage.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — After reading the stat sheet following Tennessee's first preseason scrimmage, two defensive players would like a recount.

"We had a lot of sacks today," junior Darrington Sentimore said as he walked off Steve Spurrier Field at Science Hill High School. "We affected the quarterback. We got after the quarterbacks and had a lot of pressures."

Sentimore estimated that he had three sacks on the day ... only to learn moments later that he had been credited with zero sacks and two hurries. Wearing green jerseys, quarterbacks were supposedly downed whenever they were touched by a defender. Apparently, the officials didn't get that memo.

"They didn't record a lot of the sacks," junior Marlon Walls said with a shake of his head. "They like to see T. Bray throw the ball, and I can't blame 'em for that; he's got a pretty good arm. I guess next time we've got to grab him and hold him, as opposed to just touching him. It was a pretty good day of pash-rushing but we can always get better."

Ultimately, only four "official" sacks were credited during the workout — one each by linebacker Channing Fugate (12 yards), Corey Miller (10 yards), safety Rod Wilks (five yards) and Jack linebacker Jordan Williams. Walls found that somewhat amusing, given the pressure he and his fellow defenders applied on Vol quarterbacks during the afternoon.

Tennessee's pass rush was among the SEC's worst in 2011, ranking 11th in sacks with 16. As a result, the Vols also ranked 11th in interceptions (9) and 10th in pass defense efficiency.

So, what has caused the sudden rise in quarterback pressure?

"I think it's just the scheme," Sentimore said. "I don't know if they (offensive linemen) can pick up on it."

Walls echoed those sentiments, noting: "I actually think it's the scheme and Coach Sal (Sunseri). He emphasizes the pass rush. He sometimes comes over in practice and we'll run drills with him. When you ain't doing something his way, he's not the nicest guy, so you learn to get it right."

Nice guy or not, Sunseri has won the Vols' admiration.

"We love him, man," Walls said. "The scheme is actually helping us out. It keeps us moving. That allows us to get back there and get a little pressure on the quarterback."

Sunseri's blitz package has more wrinkles than a Shar Pei, which tends to confuse even Tennessee's most experienced offensive linemen.

"It's just Coach Sal making the right calls," Sentimore said. "And we've got a good defense. When he calls the right call we go out there and execute."

Sophomore linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt led the defensive effort with 10 stops each. Johnson had a tackle for loss and Maggitt 2 hurries. Safety Brian Randolph (2 solos, 5 assists), Jack linebacker Jacques Smith (2 solos, 4 assists, 2 hurries), linebacker Fugate (4 solos, 2 assists), corner Nyshier Oliver (2 solos, 2 assists, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a 32-yard interception return), safety Byron Moore (3 solos, 3 assists), cornerback Marsalis Teague (6 assists) also had productive outings.

The defense reportedly played fairly well, except for allowing a 68-yard run by Rajion Neal and a 61-yard burst by freshman Quenshaun Watson.

"It was gaps. It was gaps," Walls said. "We'll get 'em. You better believe that."

Sentimore thought the defensive line played especially well, singling out himself, Walls and nose tackle Daniel McCullers, who he said "stepped up in the middle today."

McCullers (2 assists) is never far from the spotlight, due to an imposing 6-foot-6, 377-pound frame. Apparently, the junior college transfer is gifted, as well as massive.

"He didn't have to think that much," Sentimore said. "He's spent a little more time after practice, learning his plays and stuff. He showed off today."

See what assistant coach John Palermo had to say about the defensive front in the video interview below:

Inside Tennessee Top Stories