New boss will be busy rebuilding UT defense
Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 7:00 pm
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek understands the magnitude of the job ahead of him even though recruiting demands have prevented him from watching much tape of his new team’s 2012 performances.
That much was evident from a glance at the statistics that indicate Tennessee had one of its worst defenses in school history.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Jancek said. “I understand that.”
Tennessee allowed the most points (35.7) and yards (471.4) per game of any Southeastern Conference team this season. The Vols hadn’t allowed that high a scoring average since 1893, when they gave up 42.7 points per game while playing a six-game schedule. Tennessee hadn’t given up that many yards per game since at least 1950, the earliest year its sports information department has that statistic on file.
Jancek is aware of those struggles, but he isn’t dwelling on them. He plans to focus on the future rather than worrying about what went wrong under the previous regime.
“We’re not going to look back at last year,” Jancek said. “We’re going to be positive. We’re going to identify our needs, we’re going to address issues, we’re going to progress and move forward.”
Jancek, 44, has experience competing in the SEC and working alongside new Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Jancek and Jones were assistant coaches together at Central Michigan from 2003-04. Jancek went from there to Georgia, where he coached linebackers from 2005-09 and worked alongside current Tennessee safeties coach Willie Martinez.
He has spent the last three years working for Jones at Cincinnati. After serving as Cincinnati’s co-defensive coordinator in 2010-11, he became the sole coordinator this year.
Cincinnati ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense (17.17) and 41st in total defense (373.8) this season. The Bearcats led the nation in tackles for loss and were second in sacks in 2011 while ranking 20th in scoring defense (20.3) and 42nd in total defense (357.4).
“He’s a great teacher of the game,” Martinez said. “I think that’s important. He relates to the players really well. He’s a fundamental coach, really good recruiter. … He knows the conference, and that’s important.”
The new staff already has begun making changes.
During his introductory press conference Dec. 7, Jones announced the Vols would utilize a 4-3 defense. Tennessee switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme in 2012 under former defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, though the Vols employed plenty of four-man fronts late in the season.
Jancek has concentrated his recruiting efforts on finding defensive linemen with the ability to thrive in a 4-3 system. Jancek also is looking for strong tacklers who can flourish in the physical style of defense he prefers.
“When people play Tennessee, they (should) know that they’re in for a long day,” Jancek said.
Jancek has spent so much time recruiting and evaluating prospects that he hasn’t seen much of what the Vols did in 2012. He did watch tapes of a couple of games while on a flight.
“Recruiting’s No. 1 right now,” Jancek said. “We’ll get to the film and start preparing for spring ball once we get done with recruiting.”
Those tapes reveal why the Vols must recruit more talent on defense.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson ranked fourth nationally with 138 regular-season tackles as a sophomore this fall, but the Vols otherwise lack playmakers. They recorded just 17 sacks this year, the lowest total in the SEC. Tennessee’s lack of speed in the secondary allowed opponents to produce touchdowns from just about anywhere on the field.
Tennessee expects to return 10 defensive players who made at least six starts this year, though linebacker Curt Maggitt must bounce back after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament on Nov. 10. The Vols also welcome back safety Brian Randolph, who was leading the team in tackles when he tore his ACL on Sept. 15. They do have to replace departing linebacker Herman Lathers and cornerback Prentiss Waggner.
Those returning players have endured plenty of upheaval.
Jancek represents the Vols’ third defensive coordinator in as many years. Tennessee has posted three consecutive losing seasons. Yet Jancek isn’t concerned about his players having a lack of confidence after their recent struggles.
“I don’t worry about that at all,” Jancek said. “The biggest thing is that we need to get in here and we need to get to work. With a good work ethic (and) guys that are showing up every day with the right attitude, the confidence will come. The confidence will come.
“You’ve got to go out and earn confidence. It’s not anything that I can give you,” he added.
“It’s not anything that any one particular coach (can give you). It’s got to be earned over time. You’ve got to struggle. You’ve got to be able to get up again and again and get back in there. Eventually the confidence will come with success.”
Published in The Messenger 12.26.12