Tennessee's Defense is Grade A

Here's the top to bottom defensive ratings for the Tennessee-Florida game. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are average marks. Grades of 60-69 are passing but problematical and won't be good enough to defeat a quality opponent. Any grade below 60 is considered failing. We have broken down the units this week to offense and defense.

DEFENSIVE LINE (97) The D-line did everything that was needed to shut down the Gators' high-octane, spread-formation offense including holding Florida to a paltry 1.8 yards per carry and recording five tackles for losses. The down four managed to keep consistent pressure on Leak and they closed off the interior run. Jesse Mahelona had three tackles, including a sack for minus nine yards and was a force up front. Jason Hall played perhaps his best overall game and finished with six tackles including two behind the line of scrimmage. Justin Harrell also had three solo stops with one for a loss. Parys Haralson finished with three primary tackles, giving the Vols down four an impressive total of 15 solo tackles. Additionally, the Vols got quality minutes off the bench from Xavier Mitchell, Antonio Reynolds and Turk McBride. This is clearly UT's strongest unit on either side of the ball and it should keep the Vols in every contest this season.

LINEBACKERS (90) UT's seek-and-destroy unit was active, physical and disruptive throughout the game. Omar Gaither, who continues to get better every time out, led all defenders with a game-high 11 solo stops. No other player on either team had more than six tackles. Kevin Simon was a stalwart as he works himself back to 100 percent following last season's knee surgery. He finished with five tackles and he broke up a pass that he probably should have intercepted. Also he appeared to take the wrong angle of pursuit on Florida's lone touchdown while lined up at defensive end in UT's dime package. Jason Mitchell had two tackles in more limited action due to UT's use of the nickel and dime packages in response to Florida's three and four wideout sets.

SECONDARY (85) A much better outing than expected from a young secondary that is talented but still unsettled. The Vols weren't burned deep as they were last season against Leak and company and generally held their own with Florida's fleet wide receivers. Jason Allen had three tackles highlighted by a 10-yard sack. Jonathan Hefney also had three stops and a tackle for a loss but was unable to make an open field stop on a Leak scramble that gave Florida a first down and put it into field goal range in the third quarter. Antwan Stewart recorded two tackles and Inky Johnson had a sack on a corner blitz.

OVERALL (91) Outside of a few of busted assignments and the failure to force any turnovers this was an outstanding effort on the road against a difficult offense to defend. Tennessee was more physical and controlled the line of scrimmage, but got virtually nothing in support from an offense that was awol. Despite having to spend 10 more game minutes than their counterparts, the Vols never appeared to get fatigued and they never lost the initiative. Holding Florida to 247 yards in 63 plays is as much at UT could have hoped for coming into this SEC showdown. That's no small achievement under the circumstances.


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