After a week off, we have returned to our series chronicling the Top 35 Plays of the Tennessee Volunteers’ 2015 season. The number 18 play is Derek Barnett’s sack against Northwestern.
2015 got off to a slow start for star Vols defensive end Derek Barnett. Coming off of an incredible season in 2014, one that culminated with Barnett receiving freshman All-American honors, expectations were high in 2015.
However, Barnett just seemed a step slow early on, only recoding a single sack in the first five games of 2015, leading some Vol fans to wonder if his freshman season might be a fluke.
However, Barnett’s patience was rewarded. He had played well early on, but had just come up a little short in getting the quarterback to the ground. Eventually, things started going Barnett’s way; only once over the final eight games of the season did Barnett NOT record a sack.
This allowed Barnett to finish the season with a team-high ten sacks, and listed on multiple All-Conference teams.
Perhaps the most memorable sack of Barnett’s season was his final one, in the bowl game against Northwestern.
One of Barnett’s best pass rushing moves is a simple speed rush. On this play, Northwestern right tackle Eric Olson learned how devastating Barnett’s speed rush could be.
Barnett simply exploded off the edge at the snap. We get to see great technique here by the pass rusher. As soon as Olson extended his arms to block Barnett, the pass rusher lowered his inside shoulder. This gives the offensive tackle less of an area to block.
Olson was left grasping for air as Barnett went sprinting by. He never had a chance.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson was left vulnerable, and Barnett delivered a crushing blow just before Thorson could release the ball. The crown of Barnett’s helmet met Thorson’s right elbow, and he fumbled the ball. Olson, left not blocking anyone, was able to recover the ball.
This is the sack by Barnett that I remember most from 2015. The crushing hit was Barnett’s best of the year, and the technique on the speed rush was outstanding as well.
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You can read previous installments of this series by clicking below: