Like the scheme utilized by former UT defensive coordinator John Chavis from 1995-2008, the Tampa 2 consists of four down linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties. It relies heavily on speed and, as a result, often features players who are undersized compared to their contemporaries at the position.
Tennessee's players suggest that Kiffin's defense is so similar to Chavis' that many fans may not even notice the subtle differences.
"It's not a real big difference," senior linebacker Rico McCoy said recently.
Junior safety Eric Berry concurred, adding: "It's probably a little bit simpler than it was with Chief (Chavis). Both of their schemes are pretty much alike. They coach 'em differently but it's pretty much the same thing, to be honest with you ... a lot of speed."
Kiffin's defensive system, though best known for the Tampa 2 scheme, has some other elements to it.
"We're not going to play Tampa 2 all the time," McCoy said. "It's just that, when you do run Cover 2, he puts a little more emphasis on everybody's responsibility. He gets more strategic with it. He's a great teacher, though ... Coach Monte. You've got a little bit more responsibility but it's not so much different."
Apparently, not every player has more responsibility. Junior Chris Walker suggests he and his fellow defensive ends have more leeway and less responsibility in Kiffin's scheme.
"At the end spot we have a lot more freedom to go and make plays," Walker said. "Last year we had to play a lot of containment and backside technique-type stuff. They're letting us loose a lot more this year, and that's something I like."