No Defense for Poor Play

Tennessee visited an old SEC haunt Saturday and came face to face with the ghost of football future. Unfortunately it kicked hindquarter a whole lot like the ghost of Gators past — beating the tar out of the Vols by way of superior man power, brain power and fire power.

Florida's potent offense dazzled and humbled the Vols defense with a spread and shred, flash and dash, fake and bake attack. Tennessee raised the white flag in the fourth quarter, but the Gators gave no quarter. Instead they ran the Vols through with a coup de grace touchdown administered by a second team QB in the final two minutes of play.

The raging reptiles piled on the points with utter impunity. There was no concern for the emotional impact it might have on next year's engagement. This was payback for the Gators' close call in Knoxville last year. Never did the Vols so miss Chris Leak and Ron Zook.

After arriving on the SEC scene as Florida head coach Steve Spurrier revolutionized the way offense and defense would be played for the next 15 years. Now Urban Meyer has taken it to the next level behind talent handpicked to fit his innovative system.

Tennessee's response was neither tactical or proactive. Instead the Vols brain trust resorted to a gimmick in which freshman quarterback B. J. Coleman dressed up in cheap Superman garb to emulate sophomore signal caller Tim Tebow. Apparently this is what passes for strategy at Tennessee nowadays.

The cheesy scheme to motivate UT's defenders backfired as they overreacted every time Tebow flinched. All he had to do was take a jab step and the defensive front would collapse to stop an anticipated dash between the tackles. He was then free to step back and pick out an open target. This is the type suspect motivational ploy that is hailed as brilliant if a team wins but simply ill conceived when you lose 59-20.

As long as they were at it, the Vols should have dressed Kenny O'Neal up like Spiderman to imitate Percy Harvin, who had 195 yards rushing and receiving. O'Neal had nothing better to do and Harvin was clearly a superhero. Bottom line: the SEC doesn't suffer fools.

In his postmortem press conference Phillip Fulmer said he still believes in his players. The real question is: Do his players still believe in him?

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.

SECONDARY (59) Make no mistake the secondary played poorly, but Eric Berry did score UT's only second half points on a spectacular 96-yard interception return. That represented at least a 10-point turnaround and possibly 14. It was also the POD for Tennessee. The Vols gave up just two TDs through the air, but allowed 21.3 yards per completion. Jonathan Hefney topped UT's tackle chart with seven (six solo). Jerrod Parrish also had seven with five solo stops.

LINEBACKERS (51) There were too many missed tackles but the starters combined for 12 solo tackles and nine assists. Jerod Mayo hasn't been as effective at middle linebacker as expected as three solo hits by a MLB isn't good production. Rico McCoy, who had the Vols only pass breakup against Florida, has been solid. The linebackers didn't have any stops behind the line of scrimmage. They failed to fill holes off tackle. Lack of depth remains a concern.

DEFENSIVE LINE (40) Outside of Xavier Mitchell, who had four tackles including one for a six-yard loss, there wasn't much to be pleased with although Wes Brown (two solos) showed he is deserving of more playing time and Ben Martin (one solo) got his feet wet at the Swamp. Starting tackles Demonte Bolden and Dan Wiliams combined for one solo and two assists while Walter Fisher had two tackles (one solo) and J.T. Mapu had one assist. There were no sacks, no QB hurries and no blocked passes. Also the ends failed to stop the reverse or contain Tebow.

OVERALL (50) The only thing that makes the grade this high is the quality of competition and the lack of a running game which left the defense on the field for 34:50. This may be the worst performance by a Tennessee defense since the Vols were beaten by Georgia 44-0 in 1981.

SPECIAL TEAMS (81) There are still a lot of problems with coverage as Brandon James' 83-yard punt return for the game's first score indicates. However the return game is much improved with the addition of LaMarcus Coker who had six kick returns for 207 yards, including a 74-yard effort that set up the Vols first score. Britton Colquitt averaged 46.2 yards on five punts and Daniel Lincoln remained perfect on the season with field goals of 27 and 22 yards. Chad Cunningham may have won the kickoff job with a 63.3 yard average on three kicks.


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