Tennessee football: 5 things to watch for in Vols spring game

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 5: The Tennessee Volunteers mascot Smokey runs through the end zone after a score against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 5: The Tennessee Volunteers mascot Smokey runs through the end zone after a score against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Nigel Warrior
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images /

3. Which players make the splash plays on defense?

Derrick Ansley’s defensive schemes may be a bit of a question, but his experience does show one thing: a focus on big plays. Every system he’s worked in already focuses on that with things like zone blitzes, jam coverage in the 3-4 and outside pass rushers.

However, Tennessee football has a defensive coordinator who has his own experience getting units to make big plays. As co-defensive coordinator of the Kentucky Wildcats while also coaching the secondary, Ansley oversaw a defense set a school-record with six touchdowns and also finish second in the SEC by forcing 23 turnovers in 2015.

So big plays are Ansley’s thing. This year, we have a good idea where the big plays will come from on offense with guys like Ty Chandler and a pretty solid receiver rotation. But the big play guys on defense last year were the whole line in Kyle Phillips, Alexis Johnson and Shy Tuttle. Now who steps up?

That’s worth watching on Saturday. Darrell Taylor, Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson figure to take major steps, as they proved themselves to be big play guys last year. But there needs to be more people on defense.

Will Nigel Warrior finally settle in and become a major playmaker? What about JJ Peterson or somebody else at inside linebacker? Is Deandre Johnson going to become a stud opposite Taylor, or will somebody else step up there? Finally, what about the defensive line? Could a sack machine be waiting in the wings? We don’t know, but we could find out Saturday.