Okay, the defense was horrible overall. Tennessee football could not stop Dan Ellington and the Georgia State Panthers, and they could have potentially dropped 50 points on the Vols if things had gone a certain way. It was simply embarrassing for a team led by a head coach in Jeremy Pruitt who is supposed to be a defensive genius.
The linebackers were certainly at fault for this debacle as well. But the outside linebackers deserve the least amount of blame on the day from the defense. After all, it was the safeties and inside linebackers who could not contain Ellington. On the outside, their job is simply to rush the passer, but they need help.
Deandre Johnson, for all of the unit’s issues, did come through with a couple of big plays. He and LaTrell Bumphus together forced an Ellington fumble in the third quarter that set up the Vols’ go-ahead field goal. Johnson himself picked up another tackle for a loss as well. So he finished the game with two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
That makes for a good stat line and a key play that helped affect the game in a positive way. Regardless of what you want to say about what happened, he clearly was able to make some big plays and one of the few guys on defense who could do it. As a result, he’s the first guy on this list to earn recognition for his play in the opener.