KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Opposing quarterbacks could encounter double trouble when they face Tennessee.
Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt make No. 25 Tennessee the only Football Bowl Subdivision program to return two players who had at least 10 sacks last season. After combining for 21 sacks and 35 1/2 tackles for losses season, they welcome the opportunity to see what they can do next.
''We've got some goals for ourselves - and as a unit, too,'' Barnett said. ''I'm excited. (Our goals) might seem big to other people, but they're not big to us.''
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Barnett declined to specify the goals he and Maggitt set. Maggitt was more willing to discuss the aim of the entire defense while pointing out that he and Barnett are only part of the equation.
''We have big expectations as a D-line unit,'' said Maggitt, who alternates between end and linebacker. ''We want to lead the SEC in sacks.''
Tennessee has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about its defense. The Volunteers return linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who tied for the team lead with 101 tackles last year. They have an emerging star cornerback in Cam Sutton. They fortified their line with the additions of freshman end Kyle Phillips and tackles Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle.
But it's the return of Maggitt and Barnett that provides the biggest cause for hope.
After sitting out the 2013 season to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Maggitt bounced back last year to post 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Barnett had 10 sacks and 20 1/2 tackles for losses, setting Tennessee freshman records in both categories.
According to STATS LLC, Tennessee is the first FBS team to return two players who produced double-digit sack totals the previous since the 2013 Arizona State squad brought back Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. Sutton had 13 sacks and Bradford had 11 1/2 in 2012.
Barnett and Maggitt are equally effective while employing different styles.
Maggitt is the Vols' emotional leader, a guy who isn't afraid to let teammates know when they need to step up their effort and intensity. Maggitt, a fifth-year senior, says he learned that take-charge role from former teammate Herman Lathers, who also withstood a history of injuries.
''He's very confident,'' defensive line coach Steve Stripling said. ''He's willing to have conflict. We always talk about (with) our leaders, you can't be afraid of conflict. Sometimes you've got to step up and let them know what you think - enforce our style of play, those types of things.''
Barnett isn't as vocal, but his numbers make quite a statement. Barnett, the first Tennessee true freshman defensive lineman to start a season opener, made nine sacks in the final seven games.
That late-season surge led to plenty of attention, yet Barnett's approach never changed.
''Derek to me is just stoic and a rock,'' Stripling said. ''You don't see too much emotion out of him. You don't see anything other than determination. ... He does not crave attention. He just craves to be good.''
Barnett and Maggitt are good enough to give Tennessee arguably the nation's top pass-rushing duo.
The only other FBS teams to have two players with double-digit sack totals last season were Washington (Hau'oli Kikaha 19, Andrew Hudson 14), Utah (Nate Orchard 13, Hunter Dimick 12) and Missouri (Shane Ray 13 and Markus Golden 12). Dimick is the only returning player from those other three duos.
With a little more help alongside them this season, Barnett and Maggitt could help make Tennessee a quarterback's nightmare. The two of them can't help but imagine the possibilities for this defense.
''I don't like to talk about it,'' Barnett said. ''We work hard every day, and when it's game time we're going to prove it.''