Tenessee is again tough on D

After looking at extensive game film of the Tennessee defense, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione expects to face another quality unit. <br><br>"They've had their share of injuries," he noted, "much like we have, but I don't see drop-offs in their football team."

Like Alabama, the Volunteers have lost their share of athletes to injury. But Tennessee's roster is dotted with blue-chip athletes, allowing them to plug in new players and move on. Franchione explained, "They've got depth. They've got quality players. They seem to have overcome most of their injuries."

Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis has once again fielded a strong unit. "They base out of a 4-3 but they play a lot of ‘30'," Franchione said. "They're going to fit their personnel--whether it's four down linemen or three down linemen--to what kind of personnel you have in the football game."

Huntsville's Rashad ‘Boo' Moore may not be an academic All-American, but he provides Tennessee with a big body on the inside of their defensive line. (GettyImages)

Tennessee fans are bemoaning their injury luck this season, but the Volunteers field the conference's third-rated unit. Yielding just over 304 yards per game, Tennessee ranks behind the Tide (No. 2) and SEC-leading LSU. "They like to stunt," Franchione said. "They're going to move and do something on just about every play.

"They're much like (Alabama Defensive Coordinator) Carl (Torbush). They make a very concerted effort to stop the run and play a lot of man coverage in the secondary. And their corners and DBs are good man cover guys."

Alabama leads the SEC in rushing defense, but Tennessee ranks a strong third. The Vols are also third in the conference defending the pass.

"Their secondary is probably as fine a secondary as there is," Franchione said. "They play very, very well. Great cover guys. They're going to combine zone blitz with man blitz and a lot of movement up front for their defensive linemen."

With Willie Miles and Julian Battle, the Tennessee cornerbacks are very talented. And free safety Rashad Baker is a veteran.

"Our receivers are going to have to run good routes," Franchione said. "We're going to have to handle press-man coverage a lot. Tennessee likes to play a lot of press-man, and they're very good at it, which is why they like to play it. We're going to have to do some things to get some separation from their DBs."

Linebacker Eddie Moore chases a runner in last year's SEC championship game. (GettyImages)

Injuries have sidelined two starting Vols linebackers, but current starters Robert Peace, Keyon Whiteside and Eddie Moore are playing well. A team captain, Moore is on the watch list for the Butkus Award. "I think their linebacking corps has played very solid," Franchione said.

Both John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth were first-round NFL selections off last year's defensive line, and the Volunteers are starting an entirely new unit this year. But Tennessee doesn't lack for athletes.

"They've done an amazing job of completely re-doing their defensive line," Franchione said. "They have four seniors starting. When you lose four or five players and you end up with four seniors starting, that's what you call a program that perpetuates itself. That's kind of amazing."

Seniors Omari Hand, Demetrin Veal, Aubrayo Franklin and Huntsville's Rashad Moore will start for Tennessee. "They've lost some great players off their defensive line but I think their D-line is playing pretty good," Franchione said. "They've replaced them very well."


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