Matthews has Vols' attention

InsideTennessee brings you the best Tennessee Vols football coverage. Scroll down to read about how the Vols plan to slow Vandy's Jordan Matthews.

With one exception, Tennessee's scout team wore black jerseys this week.

Michael Williams was the oddity.

The track star turned defensive back nearly glowed during drills, donning an off-yellow jersey imprinted with No. 87.

It was hard to miss Williams.

And that's exactly what coaches wanted.

The Vols coaching staff knows it has its hands full trying to scheme star wideout Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt's No. 87 – on Saturday evening at 7 as the Vols hope to inch closer to bowl eligibility.

The first step in slowing Matthews is knowing where he is on the field at all times. It's been the secondary's focus all week.

"He's an unbelievable playmaker and he's a guy who will beat you," defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "You got to know where he's at. That's the bug emphasis with us — knowing where No. 87 is."

But finding Matthews is nearly as difficult as guarding him.

Vanderbilt moves their all-everything wideout in the slot, split out wide, bunched in trips, in wildcat packages and more to create mismatches.

Last Saturday, Matthews picked up 31 rushing yards on two carries against Kentucky.

"They do a great job of moving him around," Jancek said. "Again, we have to know where he's at. If you don't, that means problems."

Added Vols' secondary coach Willie Martinez: "He's a big playmaker. Even when defenses know where he's at, he still makes plays."

Yes, covering Matthews clearly has its difficulties. It becomes clear with just one glance at the stat sheet and record books.

Matthews, who will be among the top receivers chosen next spring in the NFL Draft, already has the SEC record for most yards receiving in a career with 3,358.

And he could set more records this Saturday.

Matthews needs just four catches to become the league's career leader in receptions, a record currently held by current Chicago Bears and former Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett.

On top of it all, the senior has gobbled up 1,076 yards receiving this season, becoming the first in Vanderbilt history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

"He's one of the best wide receivers in the country," linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen said.

There's no debating that.

Matthews rightly has Tennessee's full attention.

The Vols have thrown in a variety of new defensive looks in preparation for Matthews, but Jancek will tell you one of Tennessee's biggest advantages heading into game day doesn't come from "X's and O's."

"I think that bye week helps us a lot," Jancek said. "We came back refreshed and energized after the bye and they've really responded and practiced well this week. That's all we can ask for."

Last season, Matthews torched the Vols with touchdowns of 71 and 47 yards in a 41-18 Commodores victory under then-head coach Derek Dooley.

The Vols hope the coaching change works as an advantage.

Jones had success against Matthews in the 2011 Liberty Bowl, when his Cincinnati team held the star to four catches and 56 yards in a 31-24 win over Vanderbilt.

"He's explosive and can do it all," Jones said Monday. "All you have to do is get the ball anywhere around him and he's going to make a play for them. He has great confidence. I think they feed off of him. Like I said, we experienced him early in the Liberty Bowl a couple years ago. He gained our attention immediately."

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