Xs and Os of defending Bama

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Tennessee is sure to have its hands full when it kicks off against No. 2 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

"This is a big stature game at every position," second-year UT coach Derek Dooley said after practice Wednesday. "These guys are big, fast and strong from top to bottom. If you're little, weak and slow, you're going to have a tough time Saturday night."

Alabama's offense hasn't scored less than 27 points in a game this season with an average of 39.7 points per game. It is also averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has only turned the ball over seven times.

As good as the Crimson Tide defense is, the offense hasn't had to do much, especially from the second quarter on. They have outscored opponents 209-22 after the first quarter.

In his first season as the starting quarterback, A.J. McCarron has made quality decisions much of the year, completing 67.2 percent of his passes. The Mobile, Ala., native has thrown for 1,380 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9:2.

Tennessee safety Brent Brewer may find himself lining up next to linebackers on Saturday.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

Yet, with Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson (936 rushing yards, 15 TDs) in the backfield, teams often must load up against the run.

Tennessee may attempt to make McCarron beat the Volunteers with his right arm and just pack the box.

"Even when people do that, it doesn't mean people stopped them," Vol defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "People have packed the box on them and put 8-9 guys in the box and left the corners in man coverage and still have gotten pounded pretty good.

"So, it's about executing the call whether you're in an eight-man front or a nine-man front, you've still got to be very efficient because if one guy is just a little bit off, they can hurt you just like that. That's what good teams do. If one guy isn't perfect against a team like that, they can split you."

The look Tennessee may give the Tide, if they do sellout to stop the run, would include at least one member of the defensive backfield in the box, whether it be strong safety Brent Brewer or free safety Brian Randolph, who will be making his first college start.

"I might have to play in the box," joked Vol secondary coach Terry Joseph. "The way these guys run the ball and the size of these backs, no doubt the safeties will have to be down in there close. I don't think it's a big secret that the guys outside will have to cover and win one-on-one matchups and especially on third down.

"At the end of the day, we probably played 72-73 plays on defense against LSU. But, when you're a corner, there's truly about 8-10 critical plays that your'e involved in. Those 10 plays you want to have a winning percentage. Last week we didn't and that was the disappointing thing."

To hear Wilcox speak at length about preparing for Alabama, click play on the video below.


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