One of the most important story lines of the upcoming Tennessee football season is the defense's transition to the 3-4. It starts with a clarification that that might not really be happening at all. Coordinator Sal Sunseri yesterday bridled (of course, that may just be his way) when asked about installing Alabama's 3-4 defense at Tennessee, saying primarily that he was putting in his own system, that it would be "Tennessee's" system, and that it wouldn't be exclusively 3-4. So beware whenever you read about "Tennessee's transition to the 3-4 defense" this spring and summer.
That said, what we do know is that Tennessee's defense is changing and that it's going to incorporate more 3-4 than before. So to the extent that the team is moving to the 3-4, the key question is how long it will take to be good at it, especially because Derek Dooley may not have more than this season to get it right.
Along those lines, this excellent information from kleph at Roll Bama Roll isn't especially encouraging. It doesn't say that a team in transition necessarily gets worse before it gets better, but it does suggest that the bulk of the improvements happen in the second year.
Sunseri either seems to know all of this or is just the perfect guy for the job because the man simply wastes no time, whether he's saving seconds by presuming the rest of reporters' questions or saving minutes by quizzing the guys on alignments while they're stretching.
And while he's a time-management monster, he's not going to try to save time by reducing the amount of work to be done:
"Are they going to learn it overnight? No, they're not. They're going to keep on working. We've got 15 days, and that's the way I look at it. Then, we're going to have another 27 days. But these guys have come in here, they've bought in, they want to get better, they want to go out and want to play like a champion.
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Sunseri admitted that he and the rest of Tennessee’s defensive staff have thrown a lot at the players schematically this spring, and he said they have "scaled nothing back" in an attempt to make the system easier to execute.
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"Haven't scaled nothing back. We have an agenda on board. We're going to attack the agenda, and we're going to be successful doing it."
That sounds like the right man with the right plan, and it's just a matter of whether we have enough time to see the results. We should know more after the first scrimmage on Friday. Remember, defenses usually win first scrimmages, but UT's offense should theoretically be way ahead of the defense at this point. So we'll see.
Of course, the offense is spending most of its time learning something new, too, namely how to run the football. They're embarrassed, which should help. And you have to love Jim Chaney's attitude on an unsatisfactory record last year and why he's one of the few guys still standing:
"You can run away from it," Chaney said. "Or you can sit here, look it right in the face and try to correct it. That's the decision I made. "When I came here, I wanted to stay here."
Maybe it's part that right kind of attitude, defiant toward failure, and maybe it's part that he likes his prospects for success:
To say Chaney is pleased with his quarterbacks is perhaps the biggest understatement of spring practice. "I'm tickled to death with them. I'm very happy," Chaney offered. "I don't think we have a guy in our room who can't throw in the SEC. I wouldn't trade our room for anyone. I like them."
Now if we can just figure out how to stop losing players at positions that are thin already . . . .
More links after the jump.
Josh Conklin: Tennessee Vols' job a 'no-brainer'
Josh Conklin never envisioned leaving The Citadel during spring practice. But Tennessee is Tennessee, and the Vols wanted Conklin to coach their safeties.
VolQuest.com - Sunseri likes progress on D
VolQuest.com - Vols excited to test ground game
Jake Rowland delivers for Vols, 6-3 " GoVolsXtra
Freshman Jake Rowland made his coach, Dave Serrano, look like a genius Wednesday night as Tennessee and Memphis renewed their baseball series after a 17-year hiatus.
Baseball: Tennessee Vols stay hot, sink Memphis, 6-3
Vols to play four exhibition basketball games in Italy in August " GoVolsXtra
Cuonzo Martin realized when he took over the Tennessee men's basketball program that, like a fine wine, aging would be a crucial part of improvement.
University of Tennessee Athletics: Men's Basketball
VolQuest.com - Will 5-star Fuller see the Vols again?
VolQuest.com - Narrowed list in Walker's future
VolQuest.com - NUC New Jersey: Top performers
Ivy Renfroe, Lady Vols earn split with Georgia " GoVolsXtra
Tennessee was one out away from knocking Georgia out of second place in the SEC East Division on Wednesday night.
Georgia comes from behind to beat Lady Vols in 11th " GoVolsXtra
Tennessee Vols move up on cornerback Brendan Langley's list
Top247 cornerback Brendan Langley of Marietta, Ga., has long held Tennessee in high regard, and his visit to Knoxville on Monday only improved his opinion of the Vols.
University of Tennessee Athletics: Men's Track