All about contain

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On their last trip to Athens, the Tennessee Vols spent the afternoon trying to contain Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray ... and failing miserably.

Murray stunned the Vols with a 35-yard touchdown run on the Bulldogs' opening possession, then added a five-yard scoring burst to start the third quarter as the hosts trounced the Big Orange 41-14 on Oct. 9, 2010.

Two years later, as the Vols prepare for Saturday's return to Athens, Murray is still Georgia's quarterback and Tennessee is still struggling with mobile quarterbacks. Earlier this month Florida's Jeff Driskel burned the Vols for 81 rushing yards and Trey Burton added an 80-yard TD run as the Gators' wildcat QB in the same game.

As Big Orange fans are acutely aware, Sal Sunseri is not the first Tennessee defensive coordinator whose troops were bedeviled by agile quarterbacks. Predecessors John Chavis, Monte Kiffin and Justin Wilcox were stung by them, too.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Herman Lathers says mobile QBs pose a special challenge for defenders.

"When you've got a quarterback who can run you've got to hold your edge and not let the ball get outside you," Lathers said. "You've got to force it back to your inside guys. Contain is the big issue."

Senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner says keeping containment is tougher than it looks from the stands.

"It's real hard because you've got to stay disciplined," he said. "In the Florida game we let the quarterback break contain and get outside on the edges. That's the main thing — the D-line to contain the edges and play disciplined football."

Contain is not just an issue for the defensive line, of course. The linebackers also must strike a fine balance between attacking the quarterback and containing him.

Dontavis Sapp (41) and the Vols had issues containing Jeff Driskel two weeks ago.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"We've got to be aggressive," linebacker Channing Fugate said. "But the main thing is keeping contain on the edges and not letting him get out of the pocket and make big plays."

The Vols obviously failed in this quest against Florida. Fugate concedes as much.

"Sometimes guys lose contain from being aggressive and playing hard," he said. "We've still got to keep contain, though."

Murray has 41 rushing yards through Georgia's first four games, although 40 yards in sacks has reduced his net output to 1 yard. Still, he showed two years ago that he's a dangerous runner. So, what is Tennessee's key to keeping containment?

"Just not letting anyone get outside of you," Waggner said, almost keeping a straight face. "You might think you can sneak inside and make a play but you've got to stay disciplined and let the other guy make the play. Your play's going to come when they (ball-carrier) try to break it back."

Hard-hitting strong safety Brent Brewer loves to unload on opponents but he admits that a mobile quarterback makes him a little cautious.

"You've got to be ready for a run or a pass," Brewer said. "If you set your focus on the wide receivers, he can tuck it and run downfield, and you wouldn't even know it. You've just got to be aware of your surroundings, be aware of everything that's going on."

In addition to Burton's 80-yard burst, Tennessee was burned on a 70-yard TD run last Saturday by Akron tailback Quentin Hines. The Big Orange was guilty of assignments errors on each big play but that's probably to be expected with the Vols adapting to a new 3-4 scheme this season.

"We're still learning as a defense," Brewer said. "There's a lot of stuff thrown at us, so we've just got to keep going over it each week and make sure everybody knows what they're doing."

Even the best defenses are guilty of five or six assignment busts per game. It's only when the offense combines the right call and crisp execution that it exploits the bust and breaks a big play.

"You hit it right on the head," Waggner said. "You have some busts every game but the main thing is guys being on the same page and working together."

Obviously, the more busts a defense has the more opportunities the offense gets to pop a big play. That's why Tennessee can't afford a rash of assignment busts against a quarterback of Aaron Murray's caliber.

"To be realistic, we're not going to be perfect out there," Waggner said. "Our scheme is tough and we run a lot of plays, so the main thing is just not having as much errors as we did in the Florida game."

Watch below as defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri addresses the media following Wednesday's practice at Haslam Field:

See what Lathers had to say following Tuesday's practice on Haslam Field:

Watch as Tennessee linebacker Curt Maggitt speaks with the media:


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