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Injuries have rendered Tennessee’s defense a shell of its former self. But the Vols still have Derek Barnett.

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Tennessee v Texas A&M Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

We never really caught an extended glimpse of the Tennessee defense we were supposed to see this year. Star linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin played only four games, as did DB Cameron Sutton, and so many stars or potential stars have missed multiple games as well.

It’s been a severe test of depth, and while the Vols haven’t completely passed the test, they haven’t necessarily failed either. They are 39th in Def. S&P+, certainly not what Butch Jones expected when replacing a decent defensive coordinator (John Jancek) for a good one (Bob Shoop). But their hands have been tied, at least.

DE

  • Corey Vereen (6’2, 249, Sr.) — 26.0 tackles, 9.5 TFL (6 sacks), 3 PBU
  • LaTroy Lewis (6’4, 256, Sr.) — 23.0 tackles, 3 TFL (1.5 sacks)

DT

  • Kendal Vickers (6’3, 295, Jr.) — 23.5 tackles, 6 TFL (2.5 sacks), 1 FF

DT

  • Kyle Phillips (6’4, 259, So.) — 7.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PBU
  • Quay Picou (6’1, 277, So.) — 3.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 FR (4 games)

DE

  • Derek Barnett (6’3, 265, Jr.) — 36.0 tackles, 16 TFL (10 sacks), 1 INT, 2 PBU, 2 FF
  • Jonathan Kongbo (6’6, 270, So.) — 4.0 tackles

If Mizzou is to keep up in a shootout, it will happen because of the continued success of the Tigers’ run game. The front seven has been constantly shuffled, outside of the defensive end position, and the Vols are a jarring 77th in Rushing S&P+.

They provide solid resistance in short-yardage situations (14th in power success rate), and the presence of Barnett and company provide nice havoc potential (29th in stuff rate). But down for down, the consistency hasn’t been there. If Mizzou is able to get Damarea Crockett going, that could negate both the Tennessee home crowd and an excellent pass rush led by Barnett.

WLB

  • Elliott Berry (5’11, 222, Jr.) — 18.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU
  • Cortez McDowell (6’0, 235, Jr.) — 28.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU

MLB

  • Darrin Kirkland Jr. (6’1, 230, So.) — 22.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack) (5 games)
  • Colton Jumper (6’2, 224, Jr.) — 40.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FF

Reeves-Maybin and Kirkland were supposed to be the stalwarts in the middle, but they combined to play in only nine games. Kirkland’s back, but Reeves-Maybin isn’t, and while Elliott Berry has raised his game this year, there still isn’t as much play-making potential as there was supposed to be. Reeves-Maybin and Kirkland combined for 20.5 TFLs and nine sacks in 2016; the four above only have 10.5 and one, respectively, so far. Tennessee still prevents big ground gains for the most part, but run efficiency hasn’t been where it needs to be.

CB

  • Justin Martin (6’1, 183, Jr.) — 15.5 tackles, 1 PBU
  • Baylen Buchanan (5’11, 190, Fr.) — 18.5 tackles, 1 PBU

CB

  • Emmanuel Moseley (5’11, 180, Jr.) — 45.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 6 PBU

The loss of Cameron Sutton hurt quite a bit, but Moseley has been a solid play-maker, and at worst, Martin and Buchanan have been decent. Tennessee ranks 19th in Passing Downs S&P+, a huge advantage over a Mizzou offense that is excellent on standard downs but problematic when behind schedule. Mizzou will have to stay ahead of the chains to take advantage of Tennessee’s weaknesses.

SS

  • Todd Kelly Jr. (5’11, 208, Jr.) — 56.0 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack), 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FF — questionable with injury

FS

  • Micah Abernathy (6’0, 195, So.) — 41.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 PBU
  • Nigel Warrior (6’0, 186, Fr.) — 14.5 tackles, 1 TFL

NB

  • Rashaan Gaulden (6’1, 185, So.) — 43.0 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 PBU
  • Malik Foreman (5’10, 178, Sr.) — 14.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF (6 games)

Evan Berry was lost for the season to a knee injury in early November, and Kelly is listed as questionable. That could stifle Tennessee’s ability to prevent big plays, but I still like Micah Abernathy, Nigel Warrior is a blue-chipper, and the two nickelbacks have each shown play-making potential. Tennessee has a lot of athleticism and physicality in the back, but they might suffer a few more glitches than normal. We’ll see if Mizzou can take advantage.


Special Teams

K

  • Aaron Medley (6’2, 194, Jr.) — 43-43 PAT, 7-7 FG under 40, 1-4 FG over 40; 59 kickoffs, 33 touchbacks (56%), 20.3 KR average allowed

P

  • Trevor Daniel (6’1, 248, Jr.) — 58 punts, 44.8 average, 26 fair catches, 23 inside 20; 12.7 PR average allowed, 1 TD

KR

  • Evan Berry (5’11, 207, Jr.) — 14 KR, 32.9 average, 1 TD (long: 100)
  • Marquil Osborne (5’11, 188, Fr.) — 4 KR, 19.8 average (long: 24)
  • Tyler Byrd (6’0, 195, Fr.) — 4 KR, 21.8 average (long: 31)

PR

  • Alvin Kamara (5’10, 215, Jr.) — 18 PR, 10.2 average (long: 32)
  • Josh Smith (6’1, 213, Jr.) — 5 PR, 6.4 average (long: 16)