D Flunks Road Test

Tennessee's road to respectability ran right into a big old mud hole Saturday night, as the Vols brandished a brand of defense that hasn't been seen since the infamous 1988 season. Even in death throes of the equally infamous 2005 season, UT generally could stop the run.

It appeared the Vols mailed this one in. And as slow as the mail runs in Arkansas they must have sent it in last week — probably around the time they were going through the motions against LSU. This effort wasn't just ugly, it was possum ugly. And not live possum ugly either; we're talking two weeks on the side of the road in the middle of July dead possum ugly.

Some losses are hard to swallow but the fiasco in Fayetteville was shoved straight down Tennessee's throat. It was a physical beating on all three levels of what is generously called a defense. Good taste prevents us from replaying the gory details. It requires no analysis and deserves no equivocation.

With that qualifier in place here's the top to bottom defensive ratings for the Tennessee-Arkansas 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. An opponent degree of difficulty (between 1 and 10) has been added to the formula.


LINEBACKERS (72) Yeah there were times when it looked like the linebackers pulled a David Copperfield, but the Razorbacks met little resistance in the line hence there wasn't really anything for the linebackers to back. Marvin Mitchell (9 tackles) played hard and played hurt. Jerrod Mayo (6 tackles) made three stops behind the line, and Ryan Karl (6 stops) is a solid defender. Rico McCoy (2 tackles) saw duty and provided quality depth.

SECONDARY (55) Getting lit up by LaMarcus Russell is one thing. Getting scorched by Dick Casey is something else. (I know his name is Casey Dick, if that makes you feel any better.) Arkansas really only had one receiver, but Marcus Monk did the work of three with eight catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. That's essentially the same production as UT's big three — Meachem, Swain and Smith — had for the game. How must it feel to get abused by the Dick-to-Monk connection? Presumably, Jonathan Wade, who has had a good season, is still looking for Monk. Jonathan Hefney (9 tackles) played well and forced the Hogs' only turnover which saved the Vols another TD.

DEFENSIVE LINE (49) Except for jumping offsides three times, Turk McBride (nine tackles) played a solid game. Otherwise, there's not much to commend here. The problem is if you can't stop the run right down the middle it doesn't much matter what you do from that point. The Vols couldn't stop the run and didn't pressure Dick Casey. The last time J.T. Mapu was spotted was on a milk carton.

OVERALL (58) Giving up 875 yards of total offense in two games won't get it done in WAC much less the SEC. What happened to the days when UT's D-line was the most feared in America?

SPECIAL TEAMS (72) There weren't any grievous errors in the kicking game but on a night when both the offense and defense struggled there wasn't much help either. Britton Colquitt punted eight times but was six yards below his season's average and he only punted once inside Arkansas' 20. Robert Meachem did recover a nice onside kick by James Wilhoit in the last minute of the play.

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