VolQuest - Defense ready to defend identity
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Defense ready to defend identity

NASHVILLE -- A sluggish finish that saw plenty of points, a plethora of yards and an excruciating loss to close the season. The Tennessee defense is more than ready to get back on the field and get the bad taste of that Vanderbilt loss out of their mouth.

It's a healthier bunch, but they are still missing several key cogs in the defensive interior. Adjustments are to be expected, but will we see them come Friday afternoon?

"This month of preparation has been vital in terms of being able to physically get better and have more schematic things to get ready for Nebraska," Gaulden said. "Being able to prepare for them for a month has been huge and I'm sure you will see some wrinkles and different things like that."

It would be easy for the defense to doubt first year Vol coordinator Bob Shoop, but that isn't the case. They have full faith that he will get the defense corrected and the work they have put in over the last few weeks is about to pay off.

"I feel like coach Shoop is definitely manageable and capable of putting wrinkles into our defense," Kelly said. "He is a very intelligent guy and has big time goals for our defense that I think we can accomplish. With that being said, whatever he has planned for us is what we are going to do. He has had success in this Music City Bowl before. I think he is 2-0 and if we win he would be the first coach to go 3-0 in this bowl and that would be huge for him. It's a big game for him."

The "Dog" of the defense

With a healthy season has come strong play from Gaulden who has really shined down the stretch as the rest of the defense struggled. He's a lean, mean, hitting machine and you could even call him the "Jauan Jennings" of this defense. He has a certain mentality that has been good for this group.

"I think we are very similar," Gaulden said. "He has a very different skill set and a very different mindset that not many players have. I think our game is very similar, but we are on different sides of the ball. Just from our competitive battles on the field, coach knows that if he calls our names, the circle of life is something the whole team wants to see. Just having his mindset on the offensive end and seeing his catches that he comes up with is very special. I'm going to do whatever I can for the defense to help us win as well."

And it's thanks to a healthy season, that Gaulden has been a nice piece on his side of the ball. After all, he has missed his first two seasons on Rocky Top due to injury.

"It's been a fun ride to maintain my health and be healthy all year," Gaulden said. "It's a testament to how hard I worked when I was injured. I was thankful to put my resume on film.

"It's kind of my first real season in my competitive zone. The confidence has grown each and every week."