The leading tacklers in today's scrimmage were linebackers Austin Johnson (8 stops) and Herman Lathers (7). Linebacker Shane Reveiz, defensive end Willie Bohannon and defensive end Jacques Smith chipped in 6 stops each.
Tackle Montori Hughes contributed 5 tackles and Walker 4, including 2 sacks. (Complete scrimmage stats are at the end of this article.)
It's no secret that Tennessee lost some key starters from its 2009 defense - tackles Dan Williams and Wes Brown, linebacker Rico McCoy, cornerback Dennis Rogan and superstar safety Eric Berry. Based on six spring practices and one scrimmage, however, Walker believes the new-look defense is beginning to jell.
"It's coming together really well," he said. "Like Coach (Derek) Dooley said today: We have a lot of familiar faces on our defense. We have a lot of people that played last year, especially in the linebacker group, so we're really familiar with each other. Having that chemistry helps us out."
Several players say the new scheme being installed this spring by defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is simpler than the 2009 scheme and significantly simpler than the 2008 scheme. Walker agrees, and believes the simple approach is helping the stop unit progress faster.
"Exactly," he said. "It's a lot easier than last year. It's a lot easier for D-linemen to put our hands down and just go. It's also easier for a linebacker or a DB to just go."
Many observers expect a backward step on defense this fall, given the loss of marquee players such as Berry, Williams and McCoy. Walker understands the reasoning but says there will be no drop-off.
"We lost some really, really good players," he conceded. "All we're hearing is that we lost Eric Berry, we lost Dan Williams, we lost Rico McCoy. But we're trying to build our own identity. We still have a lot of great players and we're going to play really hard.
"We're going to be the defense that no one wants to play. That's the defense we're going to bring ... like the old Tennessee."
Here are the stats from today's scrimmage:
Tauren Poole 9 for 94 yards, TD
David Oku 14 for 23 yards
Toney Williams 7 for 12 yards.
Nick Stephens 3-of-9, 6 yards
Matt Simms 6-of-20, 83 yards, TD, int.
Tyler Bray 8-of-13, 69 yards, TD, int.
Marsalis Teague 2 for 29 yards
Gerald Jones 2 for 16 yards
Matt Milton 2 for 11 yards
Zach Rogers 1 for 22 yards, TD
Kevin Cooper 1 for 18 yards
Ted Meline 1 for 14 yards, TD
Ben Lehning 1 for 12 yards
Todd Campbell 1 for 10 yards.
Austin Johnson 8 tackles, 2 TFL (-6) + sack (-4), int.
Herman Lathers 7 tackles, TFL (-1) + sack (-5), QB hurry
Shane Reveiz 6 tackles
Jacques Smith 6 tackles
Willie Bohannon 6 tackles, 2 TFL (-5), QB hurry
Montori Hughes 5 tackles, TFL (-1), 2 PBU
Chris Walker 4 tackles, 2 sacks (-13), QB hurry
Janzen Jackson 2 tackles, interception
Tackles Dallas Thomas and Ja'Wuan James, guards JerQuari Schofield and Jarrod Shaw, center Victor Thomas, tight end Luke Stocker, wide receivers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones; fullback Kevin Cooper, tailback Tauren Poole, quarterback Nick Stephens
Ends Chris Walker and Gerald Williams, tackles Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls; linebackers LaMarcus Thompson, Herman Lathers and Austin Johnson; cornerbacks Eric Gordon and Nyshier Oliver, safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles