Senior defensive end Jacques Smith has seen a great deal of change in his years as a Tennessee Vol. Not only from coaching changes, but position changes as well.
No to mention adjusting to new defensive schemes.
Now a year after the Vols allowed the most yardage and points to opponents in UT history, they will switch from the unsuccessful and problematic 3-4 defense back to a 4-3 under first year head coach Butch Jones. According to Smith, the move brought a sense of comfort back to fans and himself, and the senior said he prefers to unleash his rage up front rather than playing roaming linebacker.
“I’m excited to put my hand back down in the ground and get after the quarterback and to use my athletic ability to go in and out or wherever I want,” Smith said, who brught out his bright orange blazer for the first time at SEC Media Days. “It’s amazing and it’s a blessing. I think everyone in the front seven agrees with me.”
While all but four return to the Tennessee defense, which ranked dead last in the SEC in defense last season, it has to be acknowledged what the Vols accomplished in their last previous season when operating in the 4-3.
“First off we are all experienced in this system and we will be back better than before,” Smith said. “After all we were 27th in the country the last time we played the 4-3 defense.”
Smith and his teammates did not ask to switch back to the original suitable defense. When Jones became the Vols 24th all-time head coach he let his players know that he believed fully in the defensive scheme.
“The 4-3 defense fits our personnel and our football program well,” said Jones in front of several hundred media members Wednesday afternoon. “I think everyone understands the SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league. You win championships by playing great defense and that means stopping the run up front first.”
Smith will be a vital key in stopping the run up front as he enters the season leading all active Tennessee players with 19.5 career tackles for loss. He said he will look to be a leader on a front along with defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, who is on three award watch lists to begin the season.
“It starts like a disease,” Smith said. “I try to set the standard and I go above and beyond what our coaches want us and expect us to do. It triggers around the whole entire team. The next thing you know our young guys are getting into film and putting in extra time. It becomes habit. That’s why this team is going to be more special than ever before.”
For the Vols, last season is far in the past as they etch a new mark in the history books of Tennessee football. Smith and those around him on the defensive side of the ball are very confident in that they believe they can surprise people this season.
“The confidence of the orange storm is through the roof right now,” Smith said. “We’ve been working so hard and the system that Coach Jancek has brought to us has enabled us to play our defense. I’m excited of what there is to come for Tennessee.”