Tennessee enters its bye week at 2-1 through three games. The Vols look to bounce back from a 5-7 record in 2013 and four straight losing seasons. Defensively, Tennessee has seen improvement at its skill positions with several key additions and gained experienced from last season. The Vols have forced opponents to a 23.26 percent third down conversion rate and a 20 point average entering their Week 4 bye. Here’s a list of the players that have contributed to Tennessee’s defensive success through its first three games:

  1. A.J. Johnson, LB: A.J. Johnson may be off to the best start of his decorated college career. His 29 total tackles leads the SEC and he finally has a supporting cast talented enough to see more than just individual success. Johnson is coming off back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons and recorded 80 as a true freshman. Despite his contributions, the linebacker has never played on a winning Tennessee team or even made a bowl game appearance. Should Tennessee continue to see success on defense, that could change for Johnson in his final season.
  2. Cameron Sutton, CB: Cameron Sutton has started at cornerback in every game for Tennessee since enrolling in 2013. Sutton has 16 tackles, an interception and a pass deflection through three games. During his first two games, Sutton shut down Utah State and Arkansas State’s wide receivers. In Week 3, he managed to keep Oklahoma standout Sterling Shepard out of the end zone, despite a big performance from the playmaking wideout.
  3. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB: As a true freshman, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was Tennessee’s leading tackler on special teams in 2013. This season, Reeves-Maybin has an expanded role as the Vols’ starting outside linebacker. So far, so good. Reeves-Maybin has 25 total tackles and is averaging 8.33 per game (1.34 less than Johnson). The former Clarskville Northwest standout was athletic enough to excel on both sides of the football in high school, which is shown through his play at linebacker. Reeves-Maybin and Johnson have benefited greatly from each other’s presence in the lineup and should be a force moving forward.