- Advertisement -

Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks, “I think we should really have the best defensive line in the country.”

- Advertisement -

I have to give Tim Banks a ton of credit. I never thought he’d be Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in 2024. Surely, I thought, he’d venture elsewhere. However, Banks is still a Vol and things are about to get a whole lot more fun for the coach who just wouldn’t deny the many challenges he’s faced under head coach Josh Heupel.

Let’s be real clear. Heupel seems like a great guy to coach under. His team culture, everyone getting along and internal support, are genuinely important to him. As a coach or even just an employee, that’s the kind of environment you want to work in. However, the rest of what Banks has to deal with is, well, very daunting. That’s a nice way to put it.

Banks has to deal with the fastest offense in the nation. That means his players can get tired during a game, adjustments are more difficult  and you’re constantly questioned about mistakes on the back end of a defense that is designed to gamble more than Las Vegas tourists. Still, Banks trudges along and never, ever complains about the offense that is at the core of Tennessee’s football program. Now, it’s time for Banks to have some fun.

Despite a completely rebuilt secondary, the Vols have more defensive pieces than ever to make a serious run at a championship. If the Vols can figure out that persisting secondary problem, they can be a championship defense no matter what the Vols do offensively.

Subscribe: “The Dave Hooker Show

Let’s start with James Pearce, who is considered one of the top defensive ends in the nation and the centrepiece of the Vols’ defense. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Pearce could be one of the most elite players in the 2025 NFL Draft if he decides to leave after his junior season this fall.

- Advertisement -

“We think the sky’s the limit for him,” Banks said. “Obviously, he was just a sophomore (last season). I think he’s just scratching the surface on how good he can be. He’s extremely versatile.”

That’s an understatement. Pearce showed he could even make plays when he doesn’t get to the quarterback. That was evident when he intercepted a pass against Iowa and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. 

“He’s got really good drop skills and ball awareness…I think James would be the first one to tell you, (there’s) a lot of room for improvement on his end,” Banks said. “The good news is, he’s working extremely hard right now to take another step.

Pearce and an improved defensive front should make the Vols better in several areas. Tennessee would certainly like to be better in red-zone defense. The Vols ranked sixth in the SEC in red-zone defense last season.

“That was one of the things we identified that we think we can be better,” Banks said. “We like our scheme. We’ve just got some things that we obviously need to be able to tweak and help us grow in that way.”

The Vols could be scary whenever an opposing team is trying to punch it in near the goal line. The Vols have Pearce, emerging linebacker Arion Carter, stout middle linebacker Keenan Pili and a deeper group of defensive linemen than Banks could have ever imagined when he accepted the coordinator job at Tennessee.

Let’s be clear. Pili’s presence near the goal line will be felt, not just by his physical play, but what he has in his helmet.

“We’re obviously going to be smart with him,” Banks said of Pili, who won’t participate fully in spring camp as he continues to heal from a torn tricep muscle that ended his season last year in September. “He’s out there. He’s taking reps. And it’s important for us to knock the rust off, but obviously we want to get him to Saturdays. We’re just kind of working him back in. I wouldn’t say he’s going to take 100 snaps, but he’s definitely going to take his lion’s share of it.”

The Vols should be strong in front of Pili as well. Tennessee has a deep rotation of defensive tackles that should be able to remain fresh throughout the game no matter how fast the Vols might be on offense on any given day 

“I think we should really have the best defensive line in the country,” Banks said. “I feel really good about our depth that we’re building. I feel really strongly about their attitude and the determination that those guys have played with.”

Make no mistake, Banks is still going to need a defense that can offset a Formula One offense, but make no mistake, Banks finally has the right parts to keep up.

- Advertisement -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Podcast

- Advertisement -

More Podcasts

- Advertisement -