9. RIGHT: No first-team All-SEC defensive players
Given what we all saw in the spring game, it’s safe to say Tennessee football’s defense is going to struggle this year. To be fair, the Vols are dealing with a lot on that side of the ball. They are going through another schematic change, this time from a 3-4 to a 4-3 that’s heavy on the nickel package, and they are changing defensive coordinators in the process.
Beyond just the changes, though, they got hit hard in the transfer portal. This is a unit that lost Bryce Thompson to the NFL Draft and Henry To’o To’o, Quavaris Crouch and Deandre Johnson all to the transfer portal. Kivon Bennett was dismissed late last year, but he was also a valuable player.
Linebackers were depleted with To’o To’o, Crouch and J.J. Peterson leaving. However, an underrated issue is the secondary, which had a major drop-off last year. A big reason for that was Shawn Shamburger not playing much, as Shamburger was UT’s highest-graded returning player based on his performance at nickel in 2019.
Shamburger is now gone for good, as he has transferred and with Thompson gone, the secondary could be even worse. The Vols have added lots of talent to fill the gaps, but it’s too much to overcome, especially with Josh Heupel focusing on offense and scoring. As a result, it was right for the Vols to not have any first-team All-SEC defensive players.