Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Alabama Football: Breaking Down the Tennessee Defense

The Third Saturday in October is quickly approaching and the Alabama Crimson Tide are continuing their preparation for their game against the Tennessee Volunteers as a hostile Neyland Stadium crowd awaits.

We broke down the Tennessee offense earlier this week, and now it’s time to break down the much-maligned Volunteers defense. Tennessee’s offense presents a serious challenge to the Crimson Tide, but the Vols defense has been rather poor in 2012.

It hasn’t been a banner first half for new Tennessee defensive coordinator, and former Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri. Statistically, the Vols have been one of the worst defenses in the SEC and in the Nation.

They haven’t stopped the run, ranking 81st in the nation giving up 178 yards per game. They can’t defend the pass, ranking 84th in the nation giving up 251 yards per game. Overall, Tennessee ranks 87th in the country giving up just under 430 yards per game. They are 90th in the country in points per game allowed at 31.5 points.

They haven’t put pressure on the quarterback, ranking 95th in the country with just 8 sacks in six games. They rank 116th in the country in red zone defense having allowed 22 scores on 23 opponent drives.

It’s been bad. Really bad. The Vols have regressed big time from last season, where they ranked 28th in the country in total defense. While the Vols have a big-time offense, it has been their defense that has held them back this season and the reason why they are 0-3 in the SEC.

They are giving up 43 points per game in three SEC games. Florida and Georgia dominated Tennessee at the point of attack with the Gators racking up 336 yards rushing and Georgia racing to 282 yards on the ground. Both teams averaged over 7-yards per carry.

They performed better against Mississippi State, holding them to 142 rushing yards on 41 carries, but they allowed Tyler Russell to throw for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The way Florida and Georgia dominated up front is probably what you will see in this game Saturday night. Alabama’s offensive line is one of the best units in the nation, and Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon should find a lot of running lanes against the Vols.

On the defensive line, Tennessee is led by Alabama transfer Darrington Sentimore, who leads the team in sacks. Sentimore has been pretty outspoken this week in his desire to beat Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

Joining Sentimore up front in the starting lineup of Tennessee’s 3-4 defensive set are juniors Maurice Couch and Daniel McCullers. McCullers is an absolute load at nose tackle measuring in at 6-foot-6 and 377 pounds.

At linebacker, Tennessee is led by sophomore A.J. Johnson. Johnson is one of the top tacklers in the nation with 63 total tackles for an average of more than 10 per game. Joining Johnson on the inside is sophomore Curt Maggitt.

Junior Jacques Smith and senior Herman Lathers are also starters.

In the secondary, safety Byron Moore is one of the nation’s premier ballhawks ranking 4th in the nation with 4 interceptions through six games. Corner Eric Gordon is second on the team with a pair of interceptions.

The most talented member of the Vols secondary is is senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner. Sophomore Justin Coleman and junior Brent Brewer are also starters in the defensive backfield.

While Alabama’s defense may face some problems against Tennessee’s high powered offense, Alabama’s offense should be able to rack up the points against the Vols defense. Alabama should dominate at the point of attack and run the ball with much success, which should allow AJ McCarron to do as little as possible as he continues to recover from his bruised knee.

As long as Alabama’s offensive line plays up to its capability, the Crimson Tide should find a lot of success on offense Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, and it should lead to the Crimson Tide’s sixth straight victory in this rivalry game.

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