The linebacker corps must fill the void left by the departure of three-year starter Rico McCoy. It also must hope that Nick Reveiz, who missed nine games last fall with an ACL tear, can be injury-free in 2010.
Minus so many key players, Tennessee's defensive talent is not as strong or as deep this fall as usual. Still, Reveiz believes this stop unit will be just as stingy as its predecessors.
"They're all very different," he said recently. "With this defense, though, we're a lot more multiple. We can give different looks and we can bring pressure from different looks."
First-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox built a reputation in his previous stop at Boise State for confounding opponents with an imposing array of alignments and disguises.
"That helps a lot because the name of the game now is confusion," Reveiz said. "That's what the offense tries to do with all of the shifts they're doing. That's what the defense does when we shift and bring something late. It's all about confusing the other side of the ball."
Being complex enough to confuse the opposing offensive players without also confusing your own defensive players is the key. Reveiz said Wilcox seems to have mastered this approach, noting:
"The great thing about Coach Wilcox's mentality is 'We're going to make it simple. We just want you to play fast.' That's the key - not having a whole lot of stuff confuse your own side."