At Tennessee and elsewhere, nickel becoming the new normal

JaRon Toney

JaRon Toney

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — I’ve spent too much of the last 48 hours with a remote in hand, meticulously reviewing the Tennessee-Austin Peay snap by snap.

I don’t recommend it, although my task should get easier in future games when the Vols don’t empty the bench at halftime.

A complete statistical report, including player participation counts for the entire roster, is available to News Sentinel subscribers on GoVolsXtra here.

One of the most eye-opening things about the game is just how often UT uses a nickel defense — five defensive backs.

The totals will fluctuate from game to game, but given the increase in pass-heavy and spread-oriented teams, expect to see a lot of nickel.

Here are the number of snaps for each unit on Saturday.

4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB — 8 plays

4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB — 41 plays

3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB — 4 plays

This is not necessarily good news for Tennessee, as the Vols have some depth at linebacker (particularly when Curt Maggitt returns from injury). Coaches gave plenty of work to true freshmen corners Cameron Sutton, Malik Foreman and Devaun Swafford. Swafford is the backup nickel behind starter JaRon Toney.

We’ll take a look at the offensive formations in a future post. 

Disclaimer on the numbers: All statistics are unofficial (UT does not provide snap-by-snap data), so it’s possible there could be slight variations with official data. Also, the limitations of TV broadcasts sometimes make it difficult to see all players on the field. On rare occasions, I had to use my best guess based on the defensive set and the plays before and after. Thanks to David Morrison for his assistance on the project.