Run defense seeks answers

For the first time since 1994, Tennessee's defense surrendered back-to-back 200-yard rushing games vs. South Carolina (217) and Auburn (264). Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis is determined the streak won't stretch to three games this weekend vs. Georgia.

Chavis is aware that a legion of doubters has begun questioning his rushing defense. He's also aware that some things have to happen for Tennessee to slow down Georgia's ground game.

''There's a lot of things that have got to happen,'' Chavis said. ''We've got to play better, we've got to line up better, we've got to tackle better. That all goes back to coaching and getting it done on the practice field. Then we've got to transfer what we do there to the game field. I think we've got good enough athletes that we can line up and that we can tackle. We've just got to do a lot better job of that.''

Asked if Tennessee's defense was outmanned last weekend at Auburn, Chavis shook his head emphatically.

''No. Not at all,'' he said. ''Auburn did a great job. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They have a very talented tailback (Cadillac Williams) who really made them an outstanding team. They were really hot and we were ice-cold for a couple of series.

''We didn't play as well as we're capable of playing -- and Auburn had something to do with that -- but I wouldn't go so far as to say we were outmanned.''

It should be noted that Tennessee fields the youngest defense in the entire SEC. The Vols' 11 starters average just 2.17 years of experience per man. Safety Rashad Baker (37 starts), cornerback Jabari Greer (27) and linebacker Robert Peace (10) are the only defenders with double-digit starts to their credit. Notably, Tennessee's current defensive line features four guys who entered this season with just five starts among them -- Constantin Ritzmann (3), Mondre Dickerson (2), Parys Haralson (0) and J.T. Mapu (0). The inexperience upfront no doubt has contributed to Tennessee's problems stopping the run in recent weeks.

If Tennessee focuses too much attention on stopping the run vs. Georgia, however, the Vols risk giving up big plays in the passing game. That's because the Bulldogs feature perhaps the finest aerial attack the Big Orange will face this season, led by star quarterback David Greene.

''Quarterback-wise, I think we're playing against one of the best in the country,'' Chavis said. ''He does a tremendous job. He doesn't make any bad throws. He can throw it into tight coverage when he needs to. He's got command of the offense, and it's pretty obvious they've got a lot of confidence in him. He calls a lot of their plays at the line of scrimmage, based on the looks that you give him.''

Making Greene even more effective is the glut of talented pass-catchers at his disposal -- Fred Gibson, Reggie Brown, Damien Gary and tight end Ben Watson.

''You know the talent they have outside,'' Chavis said. ''They have as good a receivers as we'll see -- every bit as good as what we saw from Marshall ... maybe better.''


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