As the first game of the season looms around the corner, the Volunteer secondary is figuring out the final pieces of defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's new defense.
"We have been hammering it home and got a lot of the stuff down. I feel we are very familiar with it," said cornerback Eric Gordon.
Tennessee bolstered the sixth-ranked pass defense in the SEC in 2011, but looks to improve upon where they finished. With a crop of upper classman on the roster the Vols are excited about what they think they can do.
"I believe we are getting our techniques down pat, the defense is coming together and we have been able to get to the quarterback a lot," Gordon said.
Sunseri brought a new, more complex style of defense to Rocky Top from Alabama this off-season, and though the new schemes have been challenging for the defensive line and linebackers, the secondary hasn't been without their new schemes.
Though the schemes have presented challenges, the unit is seeing improvement as camp comes to a close.
"The harder you practice, the more reps you get, and the harder you go at it you'll naturally start to build some confidence," said Marsalis Teague.
A strong week at Milligan College in August gave the Volunteer defensive time to sit down with few distractions to work on getting the coverage schemes down.
"I feel like we had a great off-season, as a team, as a defense. I feel we really stepped it up at Mililgan and we bonded a lot as a team and created a lot of team chemistry," Gordon said.
Head coach Derek Dooley has seen the improvement as well, but also recognizes that the unit has a long way to go before they will be a lockdown group in the SEC.
"We've given up a lot of big plays, and it's been for a few reasons. We have been running some new coverages, and when the secondary is out there making the calls some miscommunication happens and some of it is just some guys on offense making some plays," Dooley said.
Going against the Tennessee offense has given the unit practice against a passing game that has the ability to make big plays.
"Going against our receivers and quarterback is a good thing. They are some of the best in the country at their respective positions, so it gives us a great look," Teague said.
With just a few days left the Tennessee defense is closing in on game day preparations, which means it is time to act instead of learn. But the group is confident heading into the beginning of the season.
"You have to build on everything and can't get content with one good performance in practice. We have to take it one day at a time," said Teague.