Moreover, Tennessee’s 2005 offense was so inept that it has made fans forget what an imposing challenge Tennessee’s defense faces in 2006. First-round NFL Draft pick Jason Allen is no longer at cornerback. Nor are Parys Haralson and Jason Hall available at end, Jesse Mahelona at tackle, Kevin Simon, Omar Gaither and Jason Mitchell at linebacker.
Seven quality starters are missing from the 2005 defense, including six members of last fall’s starting front seven. Yet, this is routinely overlooked because so much attention is focused on Tennessee’s nowhere-to-go-but-up offense.
In a recent article for Collegefootballnews.com, John Harris correctly noted that UT’s issues aren’t confined to the offensive side of the ball. He points out that defensive coordinator John Chavis has some problems to resolve between now and the Sept. 2 opener with Cal, as well.
Here’s a sampling of Harris’ comments:
“Every year, the Vols seem to have one of the most talented defensive front seven’s in the nation. Last year’s version was fairly good in its own right, but the personnel losses were pretty severe. Suffice it to say, defensive coordinator John Chavis will have a ton of work ahead of him with this crew. The good news is that Justin Harrell is as good as any DT in the SEC, but if the rest of the line doesn’t step up to fill the holes created by graduation, teams will double and triple him until he’s a no factor. But, the Vols usually replace talent with talent, so don’t expect too much fall-off up front. At linebacker, the situation is a little murkier, especially with projected starting middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell’s ‘problems’. Either way, keep an eye on this front seven this fall and how well the holes in this defense get filled.”