Defense Vs. Alabama

Wow. From the no-good-idea-goes-unstolen department, Vol Navy goes above, beyond, over, and through the call of duty to bring us an Upon Further Review knockoff. Summary here, table after the jump. Vol Navy -- saaaaaaa-lute!!! -- Joel

After watching the debacle that was our defensive performance against Alabama I decided to punish myself and go back and watch the tape to see exactly what went wrong.  I was hoping to see that only one or two things were wrong so that I could have hope that the defense could be fixed.  I wound up closely watching about the first two-thirds of Tennessee's defensive snaps.  After reviewing the game, I have decided that any decent offense will put up a lot of points against Tennessee unless the players improve and serious changes are made in our defensive scheme.  While watching the game live the defense looked bad, in slow-motion it was even worse.  The weaknesses of the three groups on defense (DL, LB, DB) work together to amplify the crappiness of the defense.

Defensive Backs:

This group definitely performed the worst on Saturday.  Blown coverages and allowing huge cushions for the receivers plagued the group all game long.  (Though, I would assume the huge cushions were by the coaches design) While I think he has a very bright future for the Vols, Eric Berry is not playing well right now.  He seems to do much better playing the run than the pass.  The long pass to DJ Hall on the second drive of the game was mostly his fault and shows his weakness in coverage.  Vinson was playing outside technique and expecting safety help.  Berry, however, bit on a playfake and Vinson got called for pass interference.  Berry consistently got out of position when he had a deep zone.  The other defensive backs obviously had their problems as well, but Berry's stood out the most. However, his backup Parrish was the nickel back in the game and played about as badly, so he is not an upgrade


Watching this group perform it is apparent that they are selling out to stop the run.  Alabama ran a playfake on most of the snaps when Wilson was under center and the linebackers attacked the line virtually every time.  I could understand this happening if Alabama was running the ball more or they were good playfakes, but that was not the case.  The most disheartening aspect was the poor quality of the playfakes that were working for Alabama.  Wilson would barely even stick the ball past his body and the linebackers would get at least two yards closer to the line of scrimmage leaving huge windows underneath the defensive backs.  The misreads on playaction seem to be this groups major problem, but it is disturbing the lack of big plays that this group makes.  They were supposed to be the strength of the team, at this point to call them anything above average would be false.

Defensive Line:

For the most part the line never had a chance to get to Wilson in this game.  There were a few plays where he stood in the pocket, but on the whole, the ball was out of his hand whenever he completed his drop.  When he entered the shotgun he would usually take two steps and the ball was already out of his hand.  Against the run, the line seemed to be in good position but would not finish the play when they had the chance, allowing the running backs extra yards.  This unit definitely needs to get more pressure on the quarterback when it has the chance, but I would still say they played the best of any unit on the field.  The two best defensive players for the Vols were both on the line, Bolden and Mitchell.  I did not see either of these two do anything wrong, which puts them ahead of the rest of their teammates and were both able to make a couple of good plays on run defense.  


Robert Ayres had a horrible game.  One of his plays in particular was horrendous and allowed a 26 yard run.  Alabama came out with one RB and both tight ends on one side of the field.  At the snap Ayres stands straight up and goes inside of the play.  (I have no idea why he would do this because it does not appear to be a twist with the DT and  I do not believe we would have called one because it was first and ten.)  Because Ayres takes himself out of the play, the tackle gets a free release on Mayo and he never has a chance.  McCoy makes a good play and gets off the Center blocking him and would be able to make the play for about a seven yard gain.  But, due the fact no one ever had to block Ayres there is an extra blocker (the other TE) able to get a piece of him preventing him from making the tackle.  The defensive backs then have to run the RB down.  On the very next play Ayres has contain and allows the running back to get around him for a gain of 8 yards.  


Each unit in the passing game worked to magnify the weaknesses of the others.  Our coaches do not believe that our defensive backs are able to play press coverage or man-to-man.  The huge cushions our defensive backs were giving the receivers necessitate the linebackers getting deep drops to force the quarterback to throw over them allowing the DBs a chance to make up ground.  This did not occur due to the linebackers falling for playaction continuously.  Tennessee's line is not good enough to get to the quarterback without him looking around downfield.  Wilson was able to release the ball as soon as he finished his drop due to the huge cushions granted his receivers.  

Alabama's Scheme:  

Alabama obviously picked up several of the tendencies Tennessee showed against Georgia.  Whereas Georgia came out trying to run the ball; Alabama came out passing.  Tennessee showed against the Dawgs that they would sellout to stop the run on early downs and the Crimson Tide took advantage of it by using playaction with great success.  Alabama also did a great job of overloading the Tennessee zones when they spread the field.  They would usually bring a man in motion, which would allow them to make sure it was zone, and have two men run routes on either side of a linebacker.


Tennessee tried blitzing at various times during the game with no success.  Wilson was able to make the correct read and get rid of the ball before the blitzers were able to get there.  The ease at which Alabama was able to pick up and diagnose the blitz leads me to believe that Tennessee is very predictable in where and how they will blitz.  I believe that Tennessee's coaches are going to have to make a decision in how they want to scheme on defense.  After watching the tape it is apparent that Tennessee is going to be forced to change their strategy.  The coaches must decide to decide to give up something on defense, because the Vols are not good enough to take everything away.  Either they have the linebackers drop deeper and give up running yardage or have everyone around the line of scrimmage, blitzing heavily and hope our defensive backs are not beat deep.  I feel that the best chance for success against South Carolina will be for Tennessee to stack the line of scrimmage and hope our cornerbacks can hold up in coverage.  Alabama showed that if you spread Tennessee out there will be huge passing lanes that will make an average quarterback look extraordinary.  The Vols should force the Gamecocks quarterbacks to show that they have the ability to throw the ball with pressure in their face.  With the scheme Tennessee showed last week any Division I quarterback should be able to throw the ball.  With a pressure scheme we should at least be able to stuff the run.  Whatever Tennessee decides to do; the linebackers cannot be attacking the line of scrimmage while the defensive backs give huge cushions on the outside.  If this happens it will be a very long night at Neyland Stadium.

LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A43 1 10 Ace 3-Wide 4-3 Pass 16 Deep Out
It looks like we are in a cover 3 here with Berry shifting down into the box. Bolden gets a pretty good push up the middle. Wilson lobs one out to Hall who is getting a five yard cushion from Johnson(-1) 15 yards downfield. Saying this will be a recurring problem is an understatement. (Cover -1)
T41 1 10 Ace 4-3 Run 5 Toss Left
Reynolds(-1) gets double teamed and pushed back five yards. McCoy(-1) comes up and can make the tackle around the line of scrimmage but overruns the play.
T36 2 5 Shotgun 5-Wide Nickel Pass 8 Stop
Tennessee blitzes but it has no chance to get there as Wilson takes one step and throws. Berry(-1) is playing off and comes up and lets the guy carry him for an extra 4 yards. The minus is for the tackle not the coverage on this play.
T28 1 10 I-form 4-3 Run -2 Dive
Berry(+1) blitzes off the edge and makes the tackle in the backfield. Bolden(+1) gets good penetration on this play to make the RB delay just a second.
T30 2 12 Weak Nickel Pass 8 Out
We only rush three on this play with a zone behind it. Parrish(-1) has the flat area and does not get out there quick enough to stop the play. They had 6 people blocking 3 so there was no way we were getting pressure on the play. Alabama motioned the TB out before the play so it was an obvious pass. (Cover -1)
T22 3 4 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass Inc Post
Tennessee sends 6 and Alabama picks everyone up. Wilson lobs one down the field and Hefney(+1) is able make a play on the ball and knock it away. (Pressure -1) (Cover +1)
Drive Notes: FG, 0-3, Tennessee got off to a horrible start with letting Alabama recover the onside kick. While TN did react horribly, Alabama had a guy two yards offside.
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A15 1 10 Ace 3-Wide 4-3 Pass 14 Curl
This is another obvious pass with AL motioning the TB out. We run a zone blitz and the TE turns around and catches the ball with Fisher trying to cover him. This is just a good read by Wilson. Again our line does not have time to get to the quarterback because the coverage is so bad. Also dropping your DTs in a zone is probably not a good idea. Hefney and Berry make the tackle. (Cover -1)
A30 1 10 Ace 4-3 Pass 42 PA Post
Berry(-1) bites on the play action and takes himself out of the play. I believe it is Reynolds(+1) that hits Wilson as he throws. Vinson gets called for pass interference as Hall still makes the catch. I am not going to blame Vinson on the play because it looks like he was supposed to have safety help to the inside. (Cover-1) (Pressure +1)
T28 1 10 Weak 4-3 Pass Inc Out
AL does a horrible PA fake which we still fall for. Johnson(+1) has pretty good coverage and Wilson throws it out of bounds with pressure coming. (Cover +1) (Pressure +1)
T28 2 10 Ace 3- Wide 4-3 Penalty -5 False Start

T33 2 15 Ace 3-Wide Dime Pass 4 Stop
Vinson(+1) makes the tackle as soon as the receiver catches the ball. (Cover +1)
T29 3 11 Shotgun 3-Wide Dime Pass 10 Out
We blitz a LB who gets picked up by the RB and also Vinson who does not have time to get there. Johnson(-1) is way off the receiver as he catches the ball. (Pressure -1) (Cover -1)
T19 4 1 Crazy 4-3 Penalty 5 Offsides
This is the play were AL comes out with one side of their line spread out wide and motion to a normal position and TN jumps.
T13 1 10 Strong Big 4-3 Pass 3 In
Wilson barely does a play fake which some our players still bite on. Karl(-1) takes too wide of a drop or he could have been in position to make a play on the ball. Berry(+1) comes up and makes the immediate tackle. (Cover -1)
T10 2 7 Strong Big 4-3 Run 3 Power run
TN slants away from the side the ball is run. Karl(+1) fills the hole and makes the tackle.
T7 3 4 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass Inc Penalty
Wilson has all day, but throws it high to a wide open receiver. Berry(-1). Williams(-3) hits him very, very late for the personal foul. (Cover -1) (Pressure -1)
T3 1 G Strong Big 4-3 Pass Inc PA Cross
Wilson has a long time to throw again but Heffney(+1) has good coverage on Hall. (This may have been a hold that went uncalled, but they never show a replay) Also, after the play Heffney grabs his crotch towards Hall. This is probably not a good idea when a team is throwing at will on you. (Cover +1) (Pressure -1)
T3 2 G Goalline Goalline Pass 3 PA Out
AL does play action that TN does not fall for badly, but the running back is wide open as Vinson(-1) never comes up on him for some unknown reason since the outs were his since there were no receivers on the field. Actually on replay Vinson takes just one step inside which is enough for Grant to get open. (Cover -1)
Drive Notes: TD, 0-10, Tennessee is getting manhandled on defense as Fulmer claps on the sidelines.
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
T34 1 10 Weak 4-3 Pass Inc Throwaway
TN finally decides not to bite when Wilson does his half-hearted play fake. The right defensive tackle (maybe Wilson or Mapu)(+1) gets good pressure and forces the throw away after the first read was covered. (Cover +1) (Pressure +1)
T34 2 10 ??????? 4-3 Run 3 Dive
Lincoln Financial (from hereon known as LF) comes back from a Wilson highlight package as the ball is getting handed off. Bolden (+1) stunts around and has a chance to stop him at the line but just gets a piece of him to slow the running back up.
T31 3 7 Ace 3-Wide Nickel Pass Inc Fly
Tennessee only rushes 3 and Bama had 7 players stay into block so Wilson has all day to throw, but everyone is covered and he throws it out of the endzone. (Cover +1) (Pressure -1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG, 7-10, Tennessee's defense holds after Alabama had a long kickoff return.
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A14 1 10 Ace 4-3 Pass 15 Stop
Wilson does a half hearted play fake (from now on HHPA) which TN bites on badly. Johnson (-1) is five yards away when Hall makes the catch. (Cover -1) (Pressure -1)
A29 1 10 Ace 4-3 Run 26 Off Tackle left
Berry comes down to make 8 in the box, which makes this more embarrassing. Bama motions their other TE to make the left the strong side. Karl(-1) gets pancaked by the TE. What makes this play work so well is that the DE on the side of the run is twisting around the DT allowing two lineman to release and block Mayo(-1) and McCoy. This run is not really the line's fault since they had no chance with the rush scheme. Actually, on replay it appears that Ayres (-2) just kind of stands up a runs inside of the play for no reason. Mayo gets his point back since he had no chance on the play since Ayres just let the tackle run right by him. McCoy was able to get off one block but then a second offensive lineman blocks him. I am pretty sure that if a linebacker gets blocked by two different lineman on one play that is not his fault but the lines.
T45 1 10 I 4-3 Run 8 Dive
Tennessee does a good job of bottling up the middle and the RB is forced to bounce outside where Ayres (-1) has contain but does not react quick enough allowing him to turn the corner where Johnson (+1) comes up and makes the tackle.
T37 2 2 Ace 3-Wide 4-3 Pass Inc Seam
This is an obvious pass as the RB motions out wide. The receiver is wide open and has a chance to make the play but the ball is just a little overthrown. Vinson(-1) was beat in man coverage and Hefney was the safety playing deep and got there late. With as much air as was put under the throw he should at least have been able to hit the receiver. Watching the play again Wilson looked Hefney off so it was not as bad of play. (Cover -1) (Pressure -1)
T37 3 2 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass 4 Scramble
Wilson fumbles the snap and picks it up and runs for the first down. This was basically just a QB draw, which would have obviously have worked since we only rushed three.
T33 1 10 Ace 4-3 Pass 12 HHPA Stop
Tennessee falls for the HHPA again and Wilson makes a good pass to Hall on the out. Johnson(-1) has decent coverage but then misses the tackle, so hence the minus 1. (Pressure -1)
T21 1 10 Weak 4-3 Pass Inc PA Post
The receiver is wide open on this play if the ball is thrown lower this is an easy TD. Vinson was somewhat covering the receiver but from where everyone ends up it looks like it should have been cover-2 but Berry(-1) did not drop deep enough or fell for the PA. (Cover -1)
T21 2 10 Shotgun 5-Wide Nickel Pass 7 Stop
TN runs a corner blitz that does not have time to get there. Hall just stops right in front of Karl and catches the ball. (Coverage -1)
T14 3 3 Ace 3-Wide Nickel Pass 5 Offsides
Ayres(-1) at least drills Wilson right in the middle of the back.
T9 1 G Ace 4-3 Run 3 Dive
Ayres shifts inside presnap and Bama runs where he previously was. Williams(+1) bear hugs the RB. -15 yards personal foul on Bama.
T21 2 G Ace Nickel Pass 5 PA out
TN blitzes and Wilson throws before they could get there. Vinson(+1) has good coverage and makes the tackle for no yards after catch. (Cover +1)
T16 3 G Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass 16 Post
TN get no pressure on the play rushing four. Hall comes in motion to be the inside receiver on the trips side. TN appears to be in a cover-2. Hall is wide open in the middle of the field. Berry(-1) is standing on the back of the endzone for some reason and Hefney(-1) sucked in on an underneath receiver and let Hall get behind him. Replay makes this even worse because Wilson's eyes never left Hall the entire play. (Cover -1) (Pressure -1)
Drive Notes: TD, 14-17, there went the lead to never be seen again.
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A25 1 10 I 4-3 Pass 4 HHPA Out
Karl has good coverage on the TE and is there to make the tackle for a gain of 1 but then misses the easy tackle. (Karl -1) Vinson(+1) makes then takes the TE down.
A29 2 6 Ace 3-Wide 4-3 Run 1 Off Tackle Right
Mitchell(+1) gets good penetration and forces the RB inside where Williams(+1) comes off a block and makes the tackle.
A30 3 5 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass 9 Stop
TN is obviously in zone because of where Karl lines up on the slot receiver. Hall comes in motion to make trips on Karl's side. This is the exact same play they ran earlier with the same results. He runs eight yards and is wide open in front of Karl. With the way the defense is aligned there is nothing Karl can do on this play. He has two guys in his zone and he has to take the deeper guy. However, as soon as Hall went in motion I knew what the play was so somebody should be able to jump the route. (Cover -1)
A39 1 10 ?????? 4-3 Run 1 Off-Tackle right
Mitchell(+1) gets good penetration forcing him wider and Karl(+1) comes diving in and barely trips him up. Did not get to see the formation because LF is zoomed in on Hall.
A40 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 5 Stop
Alabama motions the RB out and then throws to him in front of Vincent(+1) who then makes the tackle. TN blitzed on this play and had people coming free but Wilson got rid of the ball quickly.
A45 3 4 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass 22 Slant
TN was in a cover-1 man look on this play. Hall was the inside receiver on the side with 3 and runs up the field, with the middle receiver running a slant underneath him. Parrish has to come over the top of Hall leaving the receiver and is forced to chase him down. This was a perfect play call for man defense. (Cover -1)
T33 1 10 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass 4 Screen right
I have no idea why they ran a screen since we are getting no pressure. We played this pretty well.
T29 2 6 Ace 3-Wide 4-3 Run 4 Zone left
TN's defensive line strings this out well but Karl(-1) slips before he can make the tackle. McCoy(+1) comes from the back side and makes the tackle.
T25 3 2 Weak 4-3 Pen -5 False start

T30 3 7 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Run 6 Scramble
TN only rushes three so there are plenty of running lanes Mayo(-1) comes up and stops Wilson, but if he makes the tackle cleanly this is a gain of 3. (Cover +1) (Pressure -1)
T24 4 1 Goalline Goalline Run 1 Dive
TN does a decent job here. McCoy hits him the backfield but the RB is able to spin and fall forward for the first down.
T22 1 10 Weak 4-3 Run 5 PA scramble
Bolden(+1) is able to spin up the middle getting pressure at Wilson's feet. However Mapu(-1) gets stood up and there is a huge running lane. Both DEs were also getting good pressure on this play. (Cover +1) (Pressure +1)
T17 2 5 Strong 3-4 Run 4 Dive
Mitchell(+1) holds his ground and makes the tackle. One LB comes blitzing in with a chance to keep the RB from falling forward but misses.
T13 3 1 Ace 3-Wide 3-4 Run 2 Dive
Bolden(+1) pushes the center forcing the RB to bounce out to where Mitchell(+1) has gotten upfield. Mitchell(-1) then misses the tackle allowing the first down.
T11 1 10 Shotgun 4-3 Run 7 Scramble
Mitchell is the only TN lineman who does not get stood up on the line of scrimmage and even he gets pushed passed the QB. (cover +1) (pressure-1)
T4 2 3 Ace 4-3 Pass Inc PA bootleg
Bama comes out of two timeouts and runs a fake end around. Mitchell(+1) keeps contain and keeps Wilson from rolling. Mitchell gets a hold of him as he throws the ball away and Mayo(+1) comes in and literally knock his helmet off. (cover +1) (pressure(+1)
T4 3 3 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass Int Penalty
With LF great camera work there is never a view where you can tell if Berry got there early or not. It looks like his back hand may have been on the receiver, but I am not for sure. Anyways, Berry(+1) still did a good job jamming his man and playing the slant. Heffney(+1) still gets points for catching the ball.
T2 1 G Ace – Strong 4-3 Pass 2 Fade
This was too easy for Hall. Johnson(-1) never even tries to jam Hall. (Coverage-1)
Drive Notes: TD, 14-24, Nothing is better than a LF broadcast where you get all of three camera views, so half the time you cannot get a decent replay.
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A27 1 10 Ace 4-3 Run 4 Off-Tackle left
Reynolds(-1) gets pushed out on the play by the TE, but does come back to make the tackle but drives the RB forward for two more yards.
A31 2 6 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass Inc Fly
Reynolds gets a decent push on this play. Johnson(-1) comes up on the player in the flat in front of him that was being covered by a LB. If Wilson has the arm to zip one in between the corner and safety this would be a 20 yard gain, but instead he throws it out of bounds. (Cover -1)
A31 3 6 Shotgun 3-Wide Nickel Pass Inc Cross
TN only rushes 3 on this play. Mayo(+1) has good coverage on the TE as he crosses the middle of the field and makes the hit as soon as the ball gets there. Even if he catches this ball it is still three yards short of a first down. (Cover +1)
Drive Notes:
LN Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
A39 1 10 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass 0 Screen
AL runs a screen for some inexplainable reason since TN has not been blitzing or getting pressure on the QB. Fisher(+1) is going to be in position to make a tackle for a gain of two at the most but the RB falls down for no reason.
A39 2 10 Ace 5-Wide Nickel Pen -5 False Start

A34 2 15 Shotgun 4-Wide Nickel Pass 15 Out
Vinson is there to make a play on the ball but is a quarter of a step slow. This is just a really well placed ball towards the sideline.
A49 1 10 Shotgun 4-Wide 4-3 Pass 7 Stop
The RB goes into motion and AL throws to him on a three yard pass. Karl(-1) is late getting out into the flat allowing the recevier to gain an extra 4 yards. (Cover -1)

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