The number of departed first-teamers grew to six when two-year starting free safety Demetrice Morley was dismissed during spring practice.
Another key starter was lost when middle linebacker Nick Reveiz suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 4 this season. His replacement, Savion Frazier, suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own in Game 8. In addition, first-team safety Janzen Jackson missed three games due to disciplinary suspension and first-team defensive tackle Wes Brown played the entire season on two gimpy knees.
In spite of all this, Kiffin managed to piece together a defense that held up surprisingly well through the 12-game regular season. In fact, the numbers the 2009 defense posted stack up pretty well to those posted by Tennessee's relatively experienced and injury-free 2008 stop unit.
- The 2009 Vols allowed 21.0 points per game, only four points more than the '08 team's yield of 16.8 points per game.
- The 2009 Vols allowed 142.9 rushing yards per game, up from 103.1 in 2008.
- The 2009 Vols allowed 165.9 passing yards per game, closely approximating last year's 160.4 average.
- The 2009 Vols limited opponents to a 55.9 completion percentage, nearly identical to last year's 56.0 mark.
- The 2009 Vols allowed just 5 passing touchdowns, down from 8 in 2009.
- The 2009 Vols allowed 308.8 total yards per game, up from 263.5 a year ago.
- The 2009 Vols forced 28 fumbles and recovered 14. That's a dramatic improvement from 2008, when UT forced 9 fumbles and recovered 3.
- The 2009 Vols limited opponents to a 34-percent success rate on third-down conversion attempts, down from 37 percent a year ago.
Individually, UT defenders who made the most statistical progress from 2008 to 2009 were linebacker Rico McCoy, tackle Dan Williams and safety Dennis Rogan.
McCoy improved his tackle total from 87 in 2008 to 112 in 2009.
Williams increased his stop figure from 48 in '08 to 61 in '09.
Rogan boosted his tackle total from 53 last season to 63 this season.
Considering the graduation losses, injury losses and disciplinary losses it had to contend with, the 2009 Vol defense held up pretty well.