Vol 'D' coaches hunting answers

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Saying the 248 yards and 24 points Tennessee allowed in the second half against Florida on Saturday was a backbreaker is the understatement of the year. That 7-plus-minute stretch spoiled a Vol defensive effort that had yielded just 13 points prior.

When asked what happened on Monday and Tuesday, several of the Vols said players were not aligned properly and calls weren't being communicated properly and in time. Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri disagrees vehemently.

"There's no communication issues," Sunseri said. "The bottom line was we didn't execute what we needed to do. So, everybody can have excuses and all that other (expletive) that they want, the bottom line is that we didn't execute what we had to do. We played darn good football for about three quarters and then all of a sudden we had about 8-9 plays there where it just went to (expletive) and that can't happen."

Sunseri elaborated on the challenges his defense faced in the first loss of the year and other topics in this video:

In its season-opening 56-14 loss to UCF, the Akron Zips still managed to run 81 offensive plays. In their 66-6 victory last week over Morgan State, they snapped it 97 times.

While the Tennessee defense gets a look at a no-huddle attack at every workout at Haslam Field, it's not a terrifically fast-paced approach.

Having conditioned, talented cornerbacks on Shields-Watkins Field on Saturday night will be imperative for Tennessee if it wants to slow down its visitors. Senior Marsalis Teague had his worst game of 2012 last week and more closely resembled the corner that was pulled in Tuscaloosa last October following a long pass play to Marquis Maze.

First-year Vol cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley suggest that one bad game is no reason to rip the rug out from under the senior from Paris, Tenn. Still, if Teague suffers another setback, younger backs like Deion Bonner, Justin Coleman and Daniel Gray are fighting to get their chance.

Have a listen to what Ansley said about Teague, the Zips and other topics in this HD video:

No Tennessee player has come further along since he first stepped foot on campus this summer than junior nose tackle Daniel McCullers. Defensive line coach John Palermo and graduate assistant Nick Gentry deserve a portion of the credit for that.

"He's headed in the right direction, but he's still got a long ways to go," Palermo said Wednesday of the Georgia Military Academy product.

When McCullers wasn't in the game on run downs against the Gators, it affected the Vol defense. When he was, he clogged holes and played like an all-conference type.

See what Palermo said on the record about McCullers and his defensive front in this video:

After losing the quarterback on the back end of the defense with Brian Randolph's season-ending knee injury, first-year Tennessee safeties coach Josh Conklin is under the microscope to a certain degree to make sure there isn't a drop-off with Brent Brewer taking over.

The Vols are now a play away from having to insert a redshirt freshman like Geraldo Orta or true freshman like LaDarrell McNeil into the starting lineup. Fifth-year senior Rod Wilks is a possibility also.

"Right now it's a continual process of him understanding the information and being able to apply the information," Conklin said of Orta.

Conklin remarks on how special teams play is a "microcosm" of what happens on offense and defense, the progress of his unit's younger players, Brewer and more in this video interview:

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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