Tigers aren't one-dimensional

Since Auburn has four of the finest rushers in the Southeastern Conference -- Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Tre Smith, you'd figure the Tigers would try to exploit this stable by running on almost every down. They don't, and that's what makes them a dangerous opponent for Tennessee this Saturday on The Plains.

''I don't think that's their mentality,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says. ''I think they want to throw it some to keep you out of the eight- and nine-man fronts. When people are crashing the edges and trying to make it hard for you to run, you've got to do something to make you play straight on defense. They've got enough good stuff with their play-action pass and boot and waggle series to make you play them honest.''

Auburn's offense struggled early, producing very little in a 23-0 loss to Southern Cal and a 17-3 loss to Georgia Tech. Chavis says those outcomes were misleading.

''In the first two films they were inches away from making a ton of big plays,'' the coordinator says. ''They scare you when you watch the films. Southern Cal and Georgia Tech made some plays. If you're going to stop them, you've got to make some plays.''

Auburn's rushing totals for Games 1 and 2 were unimpressive but Chavis says that's misleadling, as well.

''In both games they rushed the ball a lot better than you think,'' he said. ''They had over 100 yards rushing but gave up so many yardage in sacks that it hurt their rushing totals. They actually rushed for about 110 yards against Georgia Tech but gave up around 65 yards in sacks.''

After starting 0-2, Auburn bounced back to rout Vanderbilt 45-7 and Western Kentucky 48-3 in Games 3 and 4. One reason for the boost in production is the improved play of quarterback Jason Campbell.

''It looks like they've simplified things for him,'' Chavis said. ''The key is that you can't let him sit back there and throw the ball. He's a very accurate thrower, and he can run their offense. Southern Cal and Georgia Tech did a lot of zone blitz, where they really put pressure on him and didn't give him time to make decisions and throw the ball. Quite honestly, they didn't do a great job of protecting him. Now they're a little bit better. They have a little more better understanding of what they want to do to protect him. He's had time the last two games and he's done well.''

Naturally, Tennessee would love to stop the run so effectively that Auburn must rely on Campbell's passing to move the football. Of course, in order to force Campbell to throw, the Vols must stop the running game first.

''No doubt,'' Chavis said. ''The thing that complements their running game is the play-action, the boot and waggle. Those plays are all designed to slow you down in your run defense. They've got a real good package -- like everyone we'll see -- but they're doing it with better players.''

Auburn's players are very good. They didn't show it in Games 1 and 2, but they're showing it lately.

''Obviously, they didn't get started the way they wanted to,'' Chavis said, ''but they're on track now. It'll be a big measuring stick for us, in terms of where we are and how far we've come defensively.''

Tennessee better have come a long way since last Saturday, when the Vols struggled early against an offensively challenged South Carolina team. The Gamecocks piled up 169 yards of total offense in the first quarter but only 202 in the next three quarters combined.

''We've played well at times but haven't been consistent throughout an entire game,'' Chavis said. ''For us to win down there, we've got to put four quarters together. Against South Carolina we played the last three quarters but we didn't play the first quarter very well. Against Florida, we played the first three quarters, then didn't play the fourth quarter very well.

''In those two games we gave almost half of our yardage in one quarter. We've got to put four quarters together to stay on the field with Auburn.''

Asked what went wrong against South Carolina, Chavis replied: ''We got out of position a time or two. You've got give them credit. The back (Demetris Summers) is good and they blocked us some. There's not one thing you can point to and say, 'This is the reason it happened.' There were a lot of little things.''

Third-down ineptitude was the big thing. Tennessee allowed South Carolina to convert a third-and-nine at its 29-yard line and a third-and-six at the Vol 10-yard line on the Gamecocks' first touchdown drive. On the second scoring drive, the Big Orange permitted Carolina to complete a 30-yard pass on third-and-11 from its own 33.

''We had opportunities on those drives to get them stopped,'' Chavis noted. ''They converted a big third down on the first drive. If we get that stopped, the first quarter might not have gone the way it did. That gave them some momentum, and they got rolling.

''We were trying to stop the leaks but it took us almost a quarter to get it stopped. We were able to adjust and get 'em stopped. When you look at the stats from the first quarter to the rest of the game, you're satisfied. We held them to 200 yards (quarters 2-3-4) and three points. We'll take that seven days a week.''

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