Defensive Line: B-
Very few units struggled as much as Tennessee football’s defensive line did in the Vols’ first game against the Georgia State Panthers. The improvement from that game to this game was night and day, and it’s enough for us to put it in the above average range. LaTrell Bumphus’s elite play at defensive end is really what put it here. However, they still wilted far too may times on the interior, and they were also bailed out by some bad play-calling. So the unit still has a ton of work to do.
With the exception of a couple of bad angles taken at times, including on the touchdown run in regulation, the Vols were actually really good at linebacker. They improved significantly. Henry To’oTo’o looks like a star in the making, Quavaris Crouch finally showed some potential, Will Ignont provide solid leadership in Daniel Bituli’s absence, and Darrell Taylor was Darrell Taylor on the outside. There was a lot for this group to be proud of, especially when it came to guarding such an elite dual-threat quarterback in Zach Wilson.
We would have given this unit a B. But things like what happened on the next to last play of regulation can’t be forgiven. Alontae Taylor had multiple lapses in coverage in overtime, and those issues were set up with the deep pass from Wilson to Micah Simon to set up the game-tying field goal regulation. Nigel Warrior, a veteran, meanwhile, took a horrible angle, allowing BYU to get into range. It never should have happened. Wilson had two pick-sixes against the Utah Utes. He was 19-of-30 for 232 yards and a touchdown against UT.
Overall Defensive Grade: B-
Despite that last bad play in regulation and then the collapse in overtime, Tennessee football did its part on defense until then. The Vols did hold the Cougars to 16 points in regulation. Any help from a red zone offense would have meant a win.