Tennessee continues to impress in the first season with Butch Jones running the show in Knoxville, and Volunteers are winning with defense. This is a welcome sight for fans of the Volunteers who had to witness the worst unit in the SEC under old defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, whose name is synonymous with a swear word in the state.
After pitching a shutout against Austin Peay – which was to be expected — the defense performed as expected vs. a Bobby Petrino-led Western Kentucky team who was coming off a win over Kentucky. After the first 15 minutes in Knoxville, it was clear that the defense was ready to play.
In a span of six plays, Tennessee’s defense forced five turnovers, including interceptions ran back for touchdowns by Justin Coleman and true freshman Cameron Sutton. 22 seconds into the second, the Vols put the game out of reach.
Much of the questions surrounding the fate of the 2013 Volunteers in the offseason surrounded the inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver, which deflected some concerns over the defense. While those questions still remain on offense, the concerns over the defense have mainly been put to rest — at least they are less concerning, that is.
Western Kentucky averaged five yards per rush and converted eight of 15 third-down opportunities, but those numbers are a little skewed when you are trailing by 28 to start the second quarter. The defense can relax a bit and does not need to play with the same aggressiveness as they would in a close game.
Through two games, the Jones era could not have gotten off to a better start if you’re a Vol, and while the schedule gets considerably tougher starting next week with a trip to No. 2 Oregon, they have to be ecstatic.
Tennessee has shown they can win with a strong running game and now with an opportunistic defense, an upset in two weeks at Florida looks like a distinct possibility if they can get some production from Justin Worley and his cast of receivers.
Who would have thought that three weeks ago?