Tennessee Defensive Preview

The Tennessee Defense is talented. They are also young at many spots. They will have a tough test in game 1.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Two young players are set to man the starting defensive end positions on Sunday. 6-3 253 sophomore Corey Vereen (Scout 3*) and 6-3 267 true freshman Derek Barnett (Scout 4*) have earned the right to take the field first. Vereen saw action in 9 games as a true freshman in 2013 totalling 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass break up, and 2 quarterback hurries. Barnett was very highly touted coming out of high school last season. While recording 60 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks, Barnett was ranked no less that the #27 DE in the nation following his senior year of high school. Youth appears to be the theme amongst the defensive ends as the two players tabbed to back up Vereen and Barnett are both short in experience as well. 6-4 257 redshirt sophomore LaTroy Lewis (Scout 3*) and Dewayne Hendrix (Scout 4*) a 6-4 275 true freshman hoping to provide the depth the Volunteer coaches are counting on. Lewis appeared in 6 games during the 2013 season as a redshirt freshman logging 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Lewis likely would have been a much more highly sought after recruit following his senior season of high school but he broke his foot and missed a large portion of the 2011 high school season. Hendrix comes to Tennessee as a very highly touted recruit. His 60 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks as a high school senior in 2013 was good enough for recruiting websites to rank him no worse than the 18th best DE in 2014 recruiting class.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

The starter at DT will be 6-5 284 Jordan Williams (Scout 3*), one of just three seniors in the starting 11. Williams has seen action in 31 career games, including 8 starts. In 2013 Williams played in 12 games and totaled 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1 quarterback hurry. For his career Williams has amassed 39 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, and just the 1 quarterback hurry. His back up is yet another true freshman Dimarya Mixon (Scout 3*). Mixon, who orginally signed with Nebraska, has now arrived at Tennessee and is looking to shake off the rust of not playing since his high school senior season ended back in 2012 having also sat out the entire 2013 season. Mixon is looking to finally build on a successful 2012 season in which he made 48 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and had 2 sacks.

NOSE TACKLE

Danny O'Brien (Scout 4*) a 6-2 286 sophomore will be anchored in at NT. Following a redshirt year in 2012, O'Brien appeared in 12 games for the Volunteers in 2013, where he tallied 12 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 tackles for loss. Coming out of high school O'Brien was rated as a 4 star prospect across the board by all 4 major recruiting websites. Backing up O'Brien will be 6-2 288 JUCO transfer Owen Williams (Scout 2*). Williams comes to Tennessee from Butler CC where he was named the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year following a 2013 season where he piled up 48 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and a forced fumble.

WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER

Jaylen Reeves-Maybin (Scout 4*) has claimed the weakside linebacker spot to start the 2014 season. At 6-1 230 Reeves-Maybin had an unspectacular true freshman season in 2013 totalling only 14 tackles. Coming into Tennessee prior to his freshman season Reeves-Maybin was highly touted as a high school prospect as he was ranked no lower than the #15 LB in his signing class nationally. Pushing Reeves-Maybin for playing time will be another highly regarded youngster. 6-3 222 Dillon Bates (Scout 4*) comes to the Voluteers having been rated by all four major recruiting websites within the top 10 nationally. The son of former Dallas Cowboy great Bill Bates, Dillon carved out a stellar high school career for himself amassing over 300 total tackles and over 180 solo tackles.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

Senior leader A.J. Johnson (Scout 4*) has started in 34 of the 36 games he has played in as a Volunteer. Not only does he bring a wealth of experience with him but his accolades speak for themselves, as he has been named to more than a dozen preseason watch lists and all conference teams leading up to the 2014 season. In 2013 the 6-2 245 Johnson had a solid season as he racked up 106 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 3 pass break ups, and 3 quarterback hurries. During his stellar career at Tennessee Johnson has piled up 324 tackles, 1 sack, 21.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 4 fumble recoveries, 4 pass break ups, and 11 quarerback hurries. 6-2 227 true freshman Colton Jumper (Scout 2*) is tasked with backing up Johnson. Jumper while not likely to see much action behind a talent such as Johnson, looks to build upon a solid 2013 high school senior season in which he recorded 131 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recoveries, and a blocked field goal.

STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER

After having started 17 of his first 20 games in a Tennessee uniform, Curt Maggitt (Scout 4*) was forced to sit out the 2013 season and redshirt while he recovered from an injury suffered earlier in the year. The 6-3 251 junior is looking to once again to cash in on the potential that he flashed at the start of his career. For his career thus far Maggitt has totalled 86 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 1 pass break up, and 7 quarterback hurries. Working his way into the two deep is yet another JUCO transfer in 6-4 225 Chris Weatherd (Scout 4*). Weatherd joins the Volunteers by way of Trinity Valley CC leaving the JC ranks as the one of the top 2 JC LBs in the country posting 24 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in 2013.

CORNERBACK

The top two corner spots are manned by 5-10 188 senior Justin Coleman (Scout 3*) and exciting 6-1 190 sophomore Cameron Sutton (Scout 3*). Coleman has started 25 of the 36 games that he has played in during his 3 year career, including all 12 in 2013. Coleman brings a great deal of experience being the third and final senior that I have mentioned today. Coleman recorded 46 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 7 pass break ups, and 1 interception in 2013. Over the course of Coleman's career he has tallied 115 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 12 pass break ups, and 1 interception. Backing up Coleman is unheralded sophomore walk-on Michael Williams (Scout NR). Williams 5-11 177, originally signed with Maryland out of high school but asked for his release when the pull of running track was just to strong for him. He has since begun running track at Tennessee and his love for football pulled him back to the gridiron. The sophomore Sutton is the starter opposite Coleman. Sutton started all 12 games for Tennessee during his true freshman season in 2013. Sutton who is athletic enough to also be the Volunteers starting punt returner, totalled 39 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 7 pass break ups, and 2 interceptions last season. Earning the back up spot behind the dynamic Sutton is an equally athletic player in 5-11 178 true freshman Emmanuel Moseley (Scout 3*). Moseley was a superb two way player in high school passing for 1,143 yards and running for 1,370 yards as a quarterback and making 28 tackles and 8 interceptions as a cornerback.

FREE SAFETY

6-0 209 Brian Randolph (Scout 3*) returns to man the defensive backfield in 2013. The junior has started 23 of the 27 games that he has been apart of and looks to build on a solid sophomore campaign. In 2013 Randolph racked up 75 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 3 pass break ups, and 4 interceptions. Over the course of his 2 1/3 seasons for the Volunteers, Randolph has tallied 152 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 7 pass break ups, and 4 interceptions. Perhaps the most experienced back up listed on all of the Tennessee two deep is 6-1 215 junior LaDarrell McNeil (Scout 4*). McNeil has started 19 of the 23 games that he has appeared in and amassed very solid stats over his two seasons totalling 112 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 pass break ups, and 1 interception.

STRONG SAFETY

Devaun Swafford (Scout 2*) a 5-11 184 walk-on sophomore has established himself at the starting strong safety spot. Seeing time in all 12 games, including starting 2 in 2013 as a true freshman, the youngster had an admirable first season in Tennessee orange as he recorded 17 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass break up, and had the highlight of his season when he returned his lone interception of his young career 62 yards for a touchdown against Florida. Backing up Swafford is the final true freshman to make the two deep roster, 6-0 203 Todd Kelly Jr (Scout 4*). Kelly Jr comes to Tennessee rated no worse than the 14th best safety nationally in the recruiting class of 2014. As a high school senior he raked in 53 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions, to go along with 1,014 yards rushing and 23 TDs offensively to earn him the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year award in 2013.

PUNTER

6-1 220 senior Matt Darr (Scout NR) seems to have finally locked up the starting spot for his fifth and final season at Tennessee. Darr came to the Volunteers as the number 1 rated punter in the country as a freshman, but he has yet to really cash in on that potential as he has played sparingly over the course of the past four years only logging 56 total punts with 40 of those coming during his redshirt freshman year in which he started 9 of the 11 games that he kicked in. Darr's career punt average is 38.4 yards per kick with 20 kicks being fair caught and 16 being downed inside the 20.

KICKER

The kicking duties could fall to either 6-0 209 sophomore George Bullock (Scout 3*) or 6-2 181 true freshman Aaron Medley (Scout 3*). Bullock has not seen any action during his two years at Tennessee, redshirting in 2012 and being a member of the squad in 2013. Coming out of high school Bullock was rated as the 9th best kicker in the nation. Medley comes into the season 2014 poised to make a real run at the starting spot. Rated as no less than the 4th best kicker nationally in the 2014 recruiting class.


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