Tennessee’s lack of pass rush has been well-documented through the first month of the season. The Vols haven’t been able to generate any push on the edge, putting plenty of pressure on Tennessee’s young secondary.
That changed against Georgia.
Darrell Taylor put up three sacks against the Bulldogs and changed the game defensively. It was a much needed shot in the arm for a Tennessee defense that is still trying to find their way. Getting consistent pressure off of the edge is something Tennessee hasn’t had since the days of Derek Barnett.
In fact, it was the first time a Tennessee defender had registered three sacks since Barnett was in Knoxville.
Darrell Taylor's three sacks today against Georgia are the most by a Vol in a single game since Derek Barnett also had three against South Carolina on Oct. 29, 2016. pic.twitter.com/fpGYC0d472— Tennessee Stats & Info (@Vol_Stats) September 29, 2018
Those three sacks also happened to be his first of the season. Not one player on the team has more than one outside of Taylor, which tells you where the state of this pass rush is.
At least for Taylor, we’re seeing signs of development. He got around the edge a couple of times against Florida, using his athleticism and hands to beat his man. We saw a lot more of that against Georgia.
“It was good to get some licks on the quarterback,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said after the game on Saturday. For the first time all season against a legitimate opponent, Pruitt’s defense looked the part. The second ranked Bulldogs had just 24 points late in the fourth quarter, seven of which came on a very fortunate sack-fumble-scoop and score play.
Georgia ended up with 38 points, thanks to a Jeremy Banks fumble near the end of the game. But the score did look worse than it actually was. It was an unexpected good showing and something that the Vols can build off of heading into the bye week.
The most encouraging part of all of this is seeing a guy like Darrell Taylor clearly developing and getting better. Pruitt needs more guys to emerge in the front seven, but having one consistent pass rusher is definitely better than none.