September 19, 2012
Sunseri says communication not the issue
Sal Sunseri wants the message to be clear: Tennessee's first-year defensive coordinator believes messages were clear in communication during the Vols' 37-20 loss Saturday to Florida inside Neyland Stadium.
"There was no communication issue," an agitated Sunseri emphasized Wednesday. "The bottom line was that we didn't execute what we needed to do. So everybody can have excuses and all that other bull(crap) that they want. The bottom line is that we didn't execute what we needed to do. We played darn-good football for about three quarters and then all of a sudden we had about eight or nine plays there where it just went to (crap). And it can't happen. Sorry about that. Edit that."
The Vols cannot edit out what Florida's offense did across the final 25 minutes of the Gators' win. They outscored host Tennessee 24-0 and rolled to a 555-yard output. Vols players earlier indicated some communication issues were at root, and even head coach Derek Dooley on Monday said that the Vols were plagued by some bad communication and needed to explore paring down the defensive schematics.
"We have been talking about this for a long time; exercising that balance on pushing the envelope on what we can do schematically on defense to where it's aggressive and it's impacting the game versus it's too much to where we create confusion and (are) not playing fast," Dooley said. "The hard part here was that didn't really hit us that it was happening until late (against Florida).
"It was not like we went in at halftime saying they are doing all this stuff. We were having a lot of communication issues. When you reflect back on it, certainly play next down a little bit."
Dooley's point was that the Vols' defense needed to be able to play faster and not get bogged down over-thinking formations. Safeties coach Josh Conklin
"It's always a double-edged sword, and I think Sal's done a great job of taking the package and understanding what we can do and what we can't do," said Conklin, himself a former defensive coordinator. "Anytime you put new guys in there that changes and that adjusts and that shifts a little bit. Especially when you're looking at the back-end. But it's a double-edged sword because you never want to take too little into a game because you want to have enough answers.
"But you also don't want to take too much and maybe miss out on stressing the fundamentals and techniques. But we've done a good job of that as a staff, and he's done a great job of that as a defensive coordinator in my opinion."
Conklin also dismissed the notion overall that communication was problematic for the defense, though the cerebral coach did acknowledge communication problems likely hampered a couple of plays.
"It really wasn't a lack of communication. There may have been one or two where we could have been in a better call," Conklin said. "But I really think that any defense is a good defense. If you can execute it. There are strengths and weaknesses to any defense, but you have answers in any defense. They did a great job of executing. They out-executed us. You just want to eliminate those 80-yard plays to a 15-yard gain so that you can line up and play again and get a turnover or get a stop and get the ball."
Sunseri made clear the Vols will deviate very little moving forward.
"We're going to do what we have to do, and that's to win and have enough calls in there to stop people," Sunseri said. "So that's what we've done.
"Well, we could have had some people in better positions. But the still the flaw that hit for 80 yards we had two people that missed tackles right there on that. Should have pushed him out of bounds on the sideline. Things happen. And the kid's a good football player. Give credit to number 8. Because he made the play happen. We had people there and we didn't get him on the ground."
Paced by Daniel McCullers, Tennessee's interior defensive line more than held its own much of the contest against Florida. It was on the edge that the Vols were burned, and defensive line coach John Palermo said he was heartened by the unit's play.
"I saw the three inside guys, when they let us play base defense, I thought the three inside kids did a nice job Saturday. Can we get better? Absolutely," said Palermo, who coached last season at MTSU. "I think we left a couple of plays on the field. We had a chance to sack him where we lost contain or didn't wrap him up or things like that. I saw a bunch of guys competing their fannies off.
"I would tell you this: I haven't been in the SEC, but I've been in pretty good football conferences before. I thought what McCullers did the other day was outstanding. I thought he handled the middle real well for us and he made two or three big tackles. Probably the most impressive play he made was down the field when he caught the quarterback from behind. So he's headed in the right direction, but he's still got a long ways to go."
GET 'EM READY
Cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said several freshmen could see much more action soon --- if Dooley chooses.
"The young guys are getting as many reps as the older guys," Ansley said. "We've got to get those guys to come on fast because it's a long season.
"Well, I mean I could throw them out there right now. It's all about what the head coach wants to do and what the defensive coordinator wants to do. If we've got to throw them out there we can and we'll feel good about it. We can call things that they know how to go out there and execute and we can go play. Because the only way you're going to become a sophomore is to not be a freshman anymore. That's how we kind of look at it."
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