National Signing Day Preview: Tennessee's Defensive Depth Chart By Class

As we did yesterday with the offense, today we're going to look at Tennessee's current defensive depth chart by class in preparation of National Signing Day. Last year, we were looking at three senior starters at linebacker, three of four senior starters along the defensive line (although with little depth behind them), and a bunch of green talent in the secondary. The seniors will have graduated by this fall, of course, but a lot of young guys did get a lot more experience in 2010.

So here's the defensive chart, as best we can tell right now. Chest bump to Incipient_Senescence for his help with this post via email:

DEFENSE
Position
Seniors
Juniors
Sophomores
Redshirt Freshmen
DE   Willie Bohannon (24/1) Corey Miller (13/2)  
DE Ben Martin (33/11) Keensen Chambers (0/0) Jacques Smith (13/0)  
DT Rae Sykes (9/0) Montori Hughes (25/5); Steven Fowlkes (7/0); Arthur Jeffery (4/0); Marlon Walls (8/0)  
DT Malik Jackson (DE) (13/12) Ellis Turner (0/0) Joseph Ayres (11/1); Greg Clark (1/0);  
LB Shane Reveiz (17/0) Herman Lathers (26/17) Robert Nelson (0/0); John Propst (10/0)  
LB Austin Johnson (13/0); LaDarius Denson (0/0)   Jerod Askew (1/0) Martaze Jackson (0/0)
LB Daryl Vereen (28/1); Jake Storey (17/0) Greg King (13/2); Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (18/0); Grant Jessen (0/0) Raiques Crump (11/0)  
DB Mandela Shaw (0/0) Marsalis Teague (11/8)* Eric Gordon (13/6); Naz Oliver (0/0)  
DB Anthony Anderson (27/1)   Brent Brewer (13/6); Zach Allen (0/0); Dontavis Sapp (11/0) Ted Meline (0/0)
DB Robert Yonce (0/0) Janzen Jackson (23/22) Nick Branum (2/0); Tyler Coombes (0/0); Joey Windler (0/0)  
DB C.J. Fleming (6/0) Prentiss Waggner (26/15);Rod Wilks (17/0); Nick Jackson (0/0) Chase Ketron (0/0); Tyler Wills (0/0)  

Projected starters in bold. Returning starters in italics. Numbers in parentheses are games/starts.

*At this position.

Observations

Defensive Line: The official UT roster still shows Malik Jackson as a defensive end, but he was arguably the team's best tackle in 2010, and word is he's eating bags of Cheetos trying to get his weight up. I can testify that that particular strategy will work. Corey Miller, too, started those two games not at end but at tackle, but that was likely due to desperation at tackle and depth at end, the latter of which we won't enjoy as much this season. He could play either. Jacques Smith didn't start any games, but he played in all 13, and he was Freshman All-SEC. So really, the two end positions are probably up for grabs between senior Ben Martin (depending on how well he recovers from his Achilles), Miller, and Smith. The tackles are likely Jackson and Montori Hughes, although there are some heralded freshmen on their way. We'll get to that on Thursday. It's important to note that Willie Bohannon also has 24 games of experience. We're going to miss Chris Walker, but we've got some talent here. Depth is the issue.

Linebackers: There is some decent game experience in this unit, although with the exception of Herman Lathers, there aren't a lot of starts. Assuming Lathers gets one of the spots, the other two are probably battles between (1) Austin Johnson (who played well in relief of Nick Reveiz last year) and John Propst (about whom folks are raving), and (2) junior Greg King (who played four games last year before getting hurt) and senior Daryl Vereen. There are some additional bodies back there for depth, so that's good.

Defensive backs: Oh, what a nice situation for the Vols in the secondary, as the team returns all four starters, none of which are seniors. Junior Janzen Jackson already has 23 games and 22 starts, so he'll no doubt start again at safety, and he'll almost certainly be joined by Brent Brewer at the other safety spot. That's a couple of frightening headhunters back there. Prentiss Waggner will likely start again at one cornerback spot, and the other CB spot is a battle between two former starters, Marsalis Teague and Eric Gordon. I'm giving a slight edge to Teague. Why? I don't know. Although it's nice to have all four starters back, the guys behind them are mostly unknown, so we could use some more depth in this unit.

Conclusion: Not bad, really, for the year following two years of coaching transitional attrition. All four starters in the secondary return, all projected starters at linebacker have significant game experience, and we have an interesting mix of experience and talent along the line. On this side of the ball, it's about getting the right guys into the right molds and developing some talented depth behind them for this year and beyond.

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