Randy's ratings: defense

Here's a position-by-position ranking of Tennessee's defensive performance in Saturday's 50-0 drubbing of UT Martin:

DEFENSIVE LINE: That's the Montori Hughes fans have been waiting to see - 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup. Freshman end Jacques Smith (4 stops, 1 tackle for loss) showed great promise. Tennessee's undersized D-line dominated a UT Martin offensive line that was not very good. Still ... RATING: 8

LINEBACKERS: Austin Johnson didn't look like a backup, did he? With starting middle 'backer Nick Reveiz playing just long enough to register one assist and one quarterback hurry, Johnson came off the bench to record 5 tackles, an interception and a safety. LaMarcus Thompson (5 stops, 1 tackle for loss) also showed up a lot. Freshman John Propst (4 tackles) showed promise in his mop-up stint. RATING: 9

CORNERBACKS: Tennessee's pass rush helped considerably but the Skyhawks completed just 11 of 26 passes for a mere 86 yards, which underscores how good the Vols' coverage was. RATING: 9

SAFETIES: Was this Prentiss Waggner's breakout game? The sophomore led all Vols with 6 tackles and returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown. Former walk-on Tyler Wolf had a big day, too, registering 5 stops, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Martin's longest pass was 30 yards and its longest rush was 16, so Vol safeties did a good job of keeping everything in front of them. RATING: 9

GAMEPLAN: Tennessee's defense smothered UT Martin from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Limiting an opponent to 142 yards of total offense - without showing all of your bells and whistles to Game 2 foe Oregon - is a significant accomplishment, no matter what NCAA subdivision it plays in. RATING: 10

SPECIAL TEAMS: Chad Cunningham averaged 40.8 yards per punt with two downed inside the 20-yard line. He also did a solid job on kickoffs. Daniel Lincoln made both field goal tries, 21 and 35 yards, and six extra points. Tennessee did an excellent job covering kickoffs, allowing Martin average just 11 yards per return. The Vols fielded just one kickoff, with "up man" Mychal Rivera returning it 7 yards. Gerald Jones had minus-8 net yards on two punt returns. Two points are deducted because Jones fumbled a punt (which Martin recovered) and David Oku fumbled a free kick (which UT recovered). RATING: 4

SUMMARY: The numbers tell the story: The Skyhawks converted just 2 of 17 third-down opportunities, completed less than 50 percent of their passes and posted less than 150 yards of total offense. It doesn't get much better than that, folks.

OVERALL DEFENSIVE RATING: The five defensive categories average out to a 9.0 rating. That sounds about right, so I'm not going to count the special teams blunders against the stop unit. This one goes in the books as a 9.


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