What specifically does Tennessee need to do this season to improve from last year? We've pored over last year's statistical rankings and come up with a few goals for Team 119.
- Continue to maintain good penalty discipline. Imagine the frustration at being better at a lot of things and having it all erased by a sudden and unwelcome onslaught of stupid penalties?
- Maintain the strength of pressure defense. This was undoubtedly the strength of last year's team, and it needs to not suffer from neglect as the team focuses on improving other areas.
- Improve run defense. If the defense just adds this one thing to the mix, the Vols' defense can be elite.
- Improve the line of scrimmage on offense and develop a deep passing game. There are a host of issues on offense, but it all starts with the offensive line. Improving that will make it a level playing field for the talented skill players in the rushing and passing game.
Here's a closer look at last year's stats that led to the above conclusions.
What Tennessee did well last year overall
Where Good Got Better. Good penalty discipline under Butch Jones is officially a pattern. The team did really well in the penalty categories in 2013 and then improved last year.
Team Strength. Let's call this "pressure defense." The team ranked in the Top 30 in Team Tackles for Loss, Team Sacks, Passing Yards Allowed, Team Passing Efficiency Defense, Passes Intercepted, and 3rd Down for What. If the Vols were able to get the other team into passing downs, said Other Team was in Much Trouble. If Curt Maggitt didn't get you, Derek Barnett did. If neither Maggitt nor Barnett got you, Cameron Sutton and the rest of the DBs did.
|Categories in which Tennessee is in the Top 30|
|Blocked Kicks Allowed||
|Blocked Punts Allowed||1|
|Red Zone Offense||58||29||100||5|
|Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game||51||67||21||6|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||56||92||26||7|
|Fewest Penalty Yards||9|
|Punt Return Defense||85||67||92||11|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense||57||50||91||14|
|Team Tackles for Loss||67||48||90||21|
|Passing Yards Allowed||12||111||27||22|
|Kickoff Return Defense||7||47||118||23|
|Team Passing Efficiency Defense||58||24|
|4th Down Conversion Pct||91||80||76||26|
|4th Down Conversion Pct Defense||48||86||117||26|
Where Tennessee needs major improvement in 2015
It's no secret, and the stat rankings only shine a light on what we already know to be true. The Vols need to hold the line of scrimmage on offense, and the team needs to develop a downfield passing game. I'm not sure what to make of that Red Zone Defense stat, unless it's the same run defense issue we'll discuss in the next section.
|Categories in which Tennessee is 90th or below|
|Passing Yards per Completion||115||116|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed||38||9||37||122|
|Red Zone Defense||47||115||11||124|
Stuff that got better from 2013 to 2014: A whole bunch of offensive stat categories.
THE BIG FAT MIDDLE
Defense. The thing that is peculiar here is that Rushing Defense seems to be a drag on the rest of the defense. It was greatly improved from 2013 to 2014, but it still only finished the season at 65. If the Vols can shore up the inside of the defensive line (which we think they have done) and if the linebackers can not become a liability, run defense (and the entire defense with it) should improve even more this year.
Offense. Total Offense, Rushing Offense, Interceptions, Passing Offense, Scoring Offense. . . all need significant improvement. Last year, we spent most of the season attributing these deficiencies primarily to the all new offensive line. You can make an argument that these things were trending up as the season progressed last year, but there's still a long way to go.
|Categories in which Tennessee is in the Middle of the Rankings|
|First Downs Defense||18||86||45||33|
|Time of Possession||37||116||91||51|
|First Downs Offense||98||20||101||54|
|Team Passing Efficiency||69||31||111||70|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||56||81||92||78|
|Passes Had Intercepted||63||83||107||84|
Players in the Top 30
The amusing thing about the chart below is that it is full of defensive players in the 2014 column and full of offensive players in the 2012 column. Oh, to be in synch.
|Derek Barnett||Tackles For Loss||6|
|Cameron Sutton||Punt Return TDs||11|
|Aaron Medley||Field Goals Per Game||17|
|A.J. Johnson||Total Tackles||4||19|
|Cameron Sutton||Passes Defended||24|
|A.J. Johnson||Solo Tackles||25|
|Dontavis Sapp||Fumbles Recovered||9|
|Devaun Swafford||Punt Return TDs||14|
|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|