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Stat rankings: Defense is night and day since 2012

The stat rankings show that Butch Jones and his staff have dramatically improved the defense in just two years. Will they do the same with the offense but on a longer timetable?

Michael Chang

The regular statistical rankings post is below, but I wanted to offer something a little different first. Think back with me to 2012, the season in which you had confidence that Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Tyler Bray's Arm could move the offense down the field.

The defense that year, though, hoo-wee it was bad. Historically so.

But then think about the team's progress in that department in just two short years. Here's a visual aid to help:

Stat 2012 2013 to date
Red Zone Defense 115 123
Passing Yards Allowed 111 6
Total Defense 107 19
Scoring Defense 104 29
Team Sacks 98 50
First Downs Defense 86 28
4th Down Conversion Pct Defense 86 45
Rushing Defense 85 64
Passes Intercepted 56 20
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 50 8
Team Tackles for Loss 48 5
Team Passing Efficiency Defense 11

With the exception of an obvious outlier there at the top, that's night and day in almost every single defensive category. Butch Jones's to-do list in 2013 may have included EVERYTHING, but defense had to be at the top of the list. He and his staff have fixed that.

Are you thinking that Jones broke the offense himself because it wasn't broken in 2012? Well, it wasn't, but it was. Wasn't, in that it did fine in 2012. But was, in that the breaking occurred that year in the form of the well-documented failure to sign a single offensive lineman in the 2012 class. Essentially, a certain former coach broke both our offense and our defense. While we were tsk-tsking over the shards of defense on the floor, he was quietly sneaking Humpty Dumpty back on the shelf. It wouldn't shatter until we picked it up and started playing with it.

So Jones and staff have patched up the defense and made it respectable again, and now they need to focus on and fix the offense. If their track record with the defense is any indication, they'll get it done. And remember this as we're looking for answers less boring than "offensive line" this season: Last year around this time we were judging Jancek by a resume that included the Oregon and Auburn games. Just saying.

And now back to our regularly schedule program.

What Tennessee is doing well

We have two new arrivals and two departures in the Top 30 this week. New on the scene are Kickoff Returns and Red Zone Offense (huh?), and falling out of the Top 30 are 4th Down Conversion Pct Defense and Turnover Margin. Still, this is a pretty fat table for this part of the season.

Categories in which Tennessee is in the Top 30
Category 2011 2012 2013

Utah St.

Ark. St. OK GA FL UTC MS
Blocked Kicks Allowed 1 1 1

1

Blocked Punts Allowed 1 1 1
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 51 67 21 43 11 3 4 6 2 1
Fewest Penalty Yards 5 5 2 2
Team Tackles for Loss 67 48 90 47 21 36 20 3 6 5
Passing Yards Allowed 12 111 27 31 30 45 28 14 8 6
Fewest Penalties Per Game 56 92 26 56 15 6 9 20 10 6
Fewest Penalties 6 18 11 7
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 57 50 91 16 13 3 1 3 5 8
Team Passing Efficiency Defense 58 21 25 35 32 14 13 11
Punt Return Defense 85 67 92 85 60 27 40 34 24 14
Total Defense 28 107 83 22 29 42 49 33 16 19
Passes Intercepted 86 56 40 10 37 33 36 12 11 20
Kickoff Returns 41 80 20 84 68 63 48 58 31 24
First Downs Defense 18 86 45 14 21 41 24 25 24 28
Red Zone Offense 58 29 100 1 44 55 39 49 33 28
Scoring Defense 36 104 78 10 21 38 57 37 19 29
Turnovers Gained 91 95 35 11 29 31 43 32 21 30
New Arrivals: Kickoff Returns, Red Zone Offense.
The Dearly Departed: 4th Down Conversion Pct Defense, Turnover Margin.

Where Tennessee needs major improvement

Four new offensive categories fall into the doghouse this week. Oh, look. Bad on first down, third down, and fourth down? Well at least we're good on second. What? Second down's not measured? Harumph.

Categories in which Tennessee is 90th or below
Category 2011 2012 2013 Utah St. Ark. St. OK GA FL UTC OM
3rd Down Conversion Pct 56 81 92 57 8 63 62 81 78 94
Scoring Offense 106 22 94 41 48 83 74 89 79 94
First Downs Offense 98 20 101 47 48 53 84 98 88 99
4th Down Conversion Pct 91 80 76 62 89 106 116 54 54 103
Total Offense 104 18 102 79 81 93 89 103 106 113
Rushing Offense 116 61 44 91 88 94 97 109 109 117
Passing Yards per Completion 115 87 93 103 110 117 119 119
Tackles for Loss Allowed 38 9 37 48 41 98 109 117 119 121
Sacks Allowed 40 5 21 65 66 109 107 118 118 123
Red Zone Defense 47 115 11 1 88 101 114 120 120 123
New Arrivals: 3rd Down Conversion Pct, Scoring Offense, First Downs Offense, 4th Down Conversion Pct.
Recent Departures:
None.

THE BIG FAT MIDDLE

And here's the rest, for tracking purposes.

Categories in which Tennessee is in the Middle of the Rankings
Category 2011 2012 2013 Utah St. Ark. St. OK GA FL UTC OM
Net Punting 104 52 28 70 76 78 72 59 48 31
Blocked Kicks 21 28 33 36
Completion Percentage 71 58 35 45
4th Down Conversion Pct Defense 48 86 117 1 48 31 48 42 30 45
Team Sacks 100 98 99 73 58 78 67 54 65 50
Fumbles Recovered 71 113 29 19 22 22 51 65 38 53
Kickoff Return Defense 7 47 118 62 76 73 54 54 59 55
Turnover Margin 59 88 54 6 19 35 39 42 23 59
Rushing Defense 69 85 100 39 49 48 78 73 67 64
Time of Possession 37 116 91 44 22 27 38 45 52 64
Passing Offense 50 15 109 44 54 68 54 56 62 69
Fumbles Lost 6 28 24 1 1 23 55 70 74 79
Punt Returns 61 22 51 84 14 34 54 97 43 80
Passes Had Intercepted 63 83 107 1 34 76 43 65 53 85
Team Passing Efficiency 69 31 111 42 61 98 83 86 76 85
Turnovers Lost 20 58 87 1 13 52 44 63 55 86

Players in the Top 30

Go A.J., Cam, and Aaron. And the fact that Worley's in the Top 30 in Completions Per Game tells me that he's both our passing and running game (where the short passing game is Plan B for a running game that has nowhere to go.)

Player Stat 2011 2012 2013 Utah St. Ark. St. OK GA FL UTC OM
A.J. Johnson Solo Tackles 14 6 6 5
A.J. Johnson Total Tackles 4 11 8 10 12
Justin Worley Completions Per Game 22 29 22 16 18 25
Aaron Medley Field Goals Per Game 26 16 25 26
Cameron Sutton Interceptions 4 13 17 27
A.J. Johnson Forced Fumbles 3 22
Justin Worley Points Responsible For 16 23
Justin Worley Points Responsible For Per Game 18 25
Cameron Sutton Passes Defended 21
Jalen Reeves-Maybin Tackles For Loss 21 26
Aaron Medley Field Goal Percentage 27
Cameron Sutton Fumbles Recovered 11 14
Todd Kelly, Jr. Fumbles Recovered 4 14
Jalen Reeves-Maybin Fumbles Recovered 14
Todd Kelly, Jr. Fumbles Recovered 11
Justin Worley Passing TDs 15
Marquez North Receiving TDs 17
A.J. Johnson Passed Defended 17 20
Owen Williams Sacks 29
A.J. Johnson Interceptions 4
Justin Worley Completion Percentage 16
Dontavis Sapp Fumbles Recovered 9
Michael Palardy Punting 11
Devaun Swafford Punt Return TDs 14
Byron Moore Interceptions 13
Cordarrelle Patterson Kickoff Returns 14
Cordarrelle Patterson All-Purpose Runners 16
Tyler Bray Total Offense 19
Justin Hunter Receiving Yards Per Game 22
Devrin Young Punt Returns 28
Tyler Bray Passing Efficiency 29
Austin Johnson Interceptions 23