Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Notes from UT vs UGA - Defense

We took a look at the offense from the Georgia game here Breathe If You Love Football: Notes from UT vs UGA - Offense http://breatheifyoulovefootball.blogspot.com/2012/10/notes-from-ut-vs-uga-offense.html?spref=tw. Now let's turn to the defensive side and see how the Volunteers fared.

Let's start with the defensive line, primarily the nose tackle position where the "competition" seems to be between Darrington Sentimore and Daniel McCullers. Sentimore, at 6' 2" and 288 isn't the physically demanding presence of McCullers at 6' 8" and 360 but he is getting the bulk of the snaps and in my opinion rightfully so. Sentimore is just the better athlete with better technique. Having said that, I don't mind seeing McCullers get more snaps as I believe there is clearly room for both to play and play well.

Individual statistics are readily available for college players but I did pay close attention to their play against Georgia. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that McCullers was the nose tackle on the quarterback sneak on 3rd and about half a yard. Murray gained a yard for the first down and they scored a play later. Finally, the left side of the defense seemed to struggle in this game. Most of the long runs came from that side.

Our linebackers remain an enigma to me. After a good start in my opinion the play has become questionable. I am struggling to determine the root cause be it personnel or scheme or both. I don't think there is any doubt that Herman Lathers is our best linebacker. He had a sack that forced a fumble and was generally a force.

I love AJ Johnson and I think the guy is a beast. I just wonder if he is suited for the MLB role in our new defense. He gets taken out of the play a lot and sometimes I question his ball awareness. A middle linebacker needs to be a ball hawk and have good awareness of where the ball is located.

Furthermore, our defensive scheme creates a soft spot between the middle linebacker and the defensive backfield which Georgia exploited several times and it led to at least one touchdown. Johnson wasn't able to cover the receiver and the safety ended having to try and contain from a mile away. Its just a recipe for disaster that has to be corrected and let's hope it can be corrected.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photo's but I think you see the problem.

Likewise with Curt Maggitt. I lost count how many times you saw him chase Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall on their way to a long run for a touchdown. Also, the linebackers seemed to bite a lot on play action and generally had poor recognition in this game.

For the record, Georgia rushed for 282 yards and Marshall was the leading rusher with 164 yards on 10 carries and 2 touchdowns. He had a long run of 75 yards. Gurley added 130 yards on 24 attempts and 3 TD's with a long run of 51 yards. Our defensive backfield, particularly the safeties, were simply unable to stop him. Our linebackers were also completely unable to stop the sweep and that killed us early in the game. Byron Moore was the only defensive back with any success taking Georgia's backs down and even he struggled.

Again, I have no access to snap counts but every time I see Willie Bohannon in the game the guy is making a big play. I really do not understand why he doesn't get more playing time.

Finally, the defensive backfield is full of young talented guys who I believe can play much better. Again, I wonder if our scheme has a lot to do with the struggles you see there. Easily our best DB is Byron Moore who intercepted an Aaron Murray pass and returned it for pick six.

He is an athletic guy with good coverage skills and you have to love a lot about his game. Which is why I hate to seem like I am picking on him but he needs to tackle better. Its really the only flaw you see in his game.

This is how you do it baby

You also would like to see him challenge the receiver more often and I wonder if that is simply coaching/scheme versus player. In fact, none of our defensive backs seem to challenge the wide receivers very much. One final note on Moore he missed a block on special teams that led to a blocked punt and didn't even seem aware that he had created a problem. Now, I think he is a great player and could be elite but elite players don't make those mistakes.

Brent Brewer struggled early on but he settled down a bit. The TD play was the linebacker's responsibility but you would like to see Brewer make that tackle and prevent the touchdown. Brian Randolph made a really nice play late in the game to help force a punt.

A lot of these issues can be fixed simply with better fundamentals. I think also players are still adjusting to the new scheme and Georgia is the best offense this defense has faced to date. You have to like a lot about what you saw and just hope that the problems are able to be fixed. There is a long way to go and we are too talented to continue to give up so many plays and points. This defense has mental toughness and fight which goes a long way.

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