Responding to a question on the popular collegefootballnews.com website,
Pete Fiutak rates the Vols' defense No. 4 nationally heading into the '05
season. Interestingly enough, though, he tabs the Big Orange No. 2 in the
Southeastern Conference. Alabama is Fiutak's pick as the No. 3 defense in
Fiutak's complete top five is as follows: 1) Miami, 2) Penn State, 3)
Alabama, 4) Tennessee, 5) Ohio State.
In addition, Fiutak lists three more SEC teams -- Auburn, LSU and Georgia -
among seven defensive units that just missed his top five.
Certainly, Tennessee's front four should be awesome. That's because of the
return of tackles Jesse Mahelona (All-America as a junior) and Justin Harrell (Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl), along with All-SEC end Parys Haralson. Only end Karlton Neal is gone from 2004's starting quartet, and
he'll be capably replaced by senior Jason Hall.
The Vol linebacking corps lost standout Kevin Burnett but returns three
seniors with considerable starting experience -- Kevin Simon, Jason Mitchel
and Omar Gaither. Meanwhile, UT's secondary returns intact, led by Jason Allen, the SEC tackles leader in 2004.
Clearly, UT has one of the NCAA's most talented and experienced defenses.
Whether it has one of the top five remains to be seen. Fiutak obviously
thinks so. Responding to a question under the heading "Ask
Collegefootballnews.com," Fiutak made these comments to explain his lofty
rankings of Alabama and Tennessee:
Alabama: This aggressive D gets most of the key parts back, but the
performance against Minnesota to close things out was a little disturbing.
Tennessee: Nine starters come back, and that doesn't even include Kevin
Simon. The line is fantastic, while Jason Allen leads a loaded secondary.