A man at the Knoxville Quarterback Club raised his hand and asked Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks the question no one else would ask.
What’s wrong with the Vols' defense?
Banks, a guest speaker at the weekly event on Monday, said he appreciated the man’s candor. Then he gave his best answer in reviewing No. 9 Tennessee’s 38-33 win over Florida on Saturday.
“When we break down the tape, there are some things we would liked to have done better,” Banks said. “But to sit here and say (the problem) was the (defensive line) or say it was the (defensive backs), it’s always a combination.
“I think we’ve played some good defense for most of the season.”
‘Stats don’t always tell the story’
Tennessee's defense was certainly better in its first three games. But the Vols (4-0, 1-0 SEC) allowed Florida to rack up 594 yards of total offense. And quarterback Anthony Richardson passed for a career-high 453 yards.
“The stats don’t always tell the story,” said Banks, a Broyles Award nominee last season as one of college football's best assistants. “I think being able to make the plays that we needed to make to give us a chance to be successful, that’s what we’re always looking for.”
Florida converted 5 of 6 fourth-down plays. But linebacker Jeremy Banks and defensive end Roman Harrison dropped Richardson for a loss on a fourth-down play to stop the Gators’ first drive.
Richardson rushed for 62 yards. But defensive lineman Omari Thomas forced him to fumble for a key turnover early in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback Kamal Hadden was burned on a deep pass, and Tennessee made only one sack. But on the final play of the game, defensive end Byron Young pressured Richardson into a poor pass, and Hadden made the interception to seal the win.
Banks liked the timeliness of those plays more than he did the overall performance. He also pointed out that the Vols are ranked No. 3 in the SEC in rushing defense at 97.8 yards allowed per game.
“The only thing I’m concerned about is did we win or did we lose?” Banks said. “Winning plays give us a chance to be successful.”
Tennessee has a 4-0 record for the first time since 2016. And the Vols have their highest ranking since 2006.
How recruits reacted to Neyland Stadium atmosphere
Banks faced friendly but pointed questions from Tennessee fans about his defensive scheme, pass coverages and comparisons to the Vols' offense, which ranks No. 1 nationally in yards per game (559.3).
He answered them and thanked fans for their support in creating a lively atmosphere for the Florida game, which drew a sellout crowd of 101,915 at Neyland Stadium.
“Every university brags about their environment,” Banks said. “But (Neyland Stadium for the Florida game) was one of the most electric places I’ve ever been. You guys stayed there the whole time, cheering and fighting. Our players, our parents and our recruits have never seen an environment like that.
“Recruits are still calling. The phone is still ringing. A lot of guys want to be a part of it.”
Tennessee is off this week. It will play at LSU (3-1, 1-0) on Oct. 8 (noon ET, ESPN), so there’s time for the Vols to fix their mistakes.
But for the last question to Banks, a fan asked for a breakdown of LSU’s offense. Banks admitted his Knoxville Quarterback Club appearance put film study on hold, and he got a laugh from the crowd before exiting.
“I’ll be honest with you. We were just diving into it,” Banks said. “But somebody said I needed to come over here and talk to some great folks. So if you get back to me later this week, I’ll be able to tell you.”
Reach Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamSparks.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee football defensive coordinator Tim Banks answers fans