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 winning 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. Special teams are included among defensive ratings but they aren't factored into the defense's total score. Each score will be followed by a brief comment. Further analysis to follow.
LINEBACKERS (85) Tennessee's linebackers were aggressive and active. Marvin Mitchell had a career best game with 15 tackles including 13 solo stops. He also intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown only to have the play called back by a questionable roughing the passer penalty. Jerrod Mayo recorded 10 tackles (one sack) while Ryan Karl added six solo stops. The success of Florida's running game and fourth quarter offense may have reflected a linebacker corps that was dragging due to a heavy play load.
DEFENSIVE LINE (82) Turk McBride stepped up in a big way with 10 stops from his tackle position, plus a sack. Defensive end Xavier Mitchell is coming on strong and becoming a force. Justin Harrell (three tackles) was a factor even with only one arm. However defensive tackles J.T. Mapu, Matt McGlothlin and DeMonte Bolden contributed just one assist each. This group is going to have to raise its game if the Vols are to overcome the loss of Harrell. Defensive end Robert Ayers had a sack and Antonio Reynolds added three tackles.
SECONDARY (67) The reshuffled secondary gave up all three Florida touchdowns with two coming from beyond the red zone. Highly touted DB Demetrice Morley didn't distinguish himself in his debut as a starter (no tackles) and Antwan Stewart missed a couple of open field tackles. Jonathan Hefney was solid as usual with nine stops while Jonathan Wade was credited with five tackles and a key interception. Ricardo Kemp got some playing time and had a tackle, but UT's secondary is paper thin with the loss of Inky Johnson and RoShaun Fellows. The limitation of personnel may have forced the Vols to play more zone than normal.
OVERALL (77) Far from dominating this wasn't a bad performance, particularly from an effort standpoint. Still the Vols seemed slow to make adjustments and have only forced one turnover in the last two games. Finally, the problems in the fourth quarter have been evident in all three games played this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS (79) The kicking game with James Wilhoit nailing field goals of 36 and 51 yards, and Britton Colquitt averaging 48.2 yards per punt was outstanding. However the return game was below par and the coverage was poor, as Florida's Brandon James had four punt returns for 65 yards and a long touchdown return called back by a borderline block in the back penalty.