Rushing 'D' a growing concern

Tennessee's defense allowed just 128 yards per game last season, ranking among the national leaders in that category. So, it's a telling statistic that Duke's Chris Douglas rushed for that same number all by himself in Saturday's 23-6 loss to the Vols.

Unfortunately for UT, Douglas's performance represents the rule this year, not the exception. South Carolina's Demetris Summers burned Tennessee for 158 yards in Game 4. Auburn's Cadillac Williams shredded UT for 185 in Game 5. Alabama's Shaud Williams ran for 166 in Game 7 and Duke's Douglas 128 in Game 8.

Since stopping the run is the foundation of Tennessee's defense, coordinator John Chavis finds the recent problems vs. the ground game more than a little frustrating. Still, he isn't ready to jump off the Gay Street Bridge just because Duke moved the ball effectively for most of the afternoon.

''Duke had done that all year,'' he said. ''They had been able to move the ball on a lot of folks, and it wasn't any surprise to me that they were able to move it on us. They did a good job with their scheme -- showing us some things we hadn't seen. It took us a little longer for us to adjust than I'd like for it to. But, after our kids realized what they (Blue Devils) were trying to do, we were able to handle it all right.''

Duke managed 299 yards of total offense, which is about average. The Blue Devils kept the ball for 34:05 to UT's 25:55, however, and that's a bad sign. Tennessee's defensive players are spending too much time on the field lately, and that can have a negative effect on them.

''It can, but we can't let it,'' Chavis said. ''We tried to roll people in and out but, sooner or later, the reps will (take a toll). We need to get this (first-team) group off the field but that's our responsibility. We've got to get off the field. We have played too many snaps. We played too many last week. I am concerned about that. We'll just have to be real careful with what we do with them during the course of the week.''

Because of the success Tennessee has had in a no-huddle offense this season, there is talk that the Vols might rely more heavily on a hurry-up attack in the remaining games. Because the no-huddle attack operates at a fast tempo, however, a three-and-out could sometimes put Chavis' troops back on the field in no time flat. Is that a concern?

''No,'' the coordinator said. ''All I worry about is what we're doing defensively. It's our job to get off the field. We need to do a better job of getting off the field.''

Tennessee's defense registered three three-and-outs in the first half vs. Duke but only one in the second half. The Vols might have recorded a few more quick stops if senior safety Rashad Baker hadn't been sidelined by a strained knee. His backup, freshman Corey Campbell, played reasonably well but was guilty of a few rookie mistakes that proved costly.

''Corey did some things really well,'' Chavis said. ''I don't want to single anybody out -- he's a freshman -- but he had two plays that were very crucial that gave them (Blue Devils) some life when we should've had 'em stopped. Other than that, I thought he did well.''

While Saturday's game was not one of the defense's best, there was a bright spot: Tennessee held the Blue Devils without a touchdown, limiting the visitors to a pair of field goals.

''They didn't get in the end zone, and we're proud of that,'' Chavis said. ''We're proud we were able to keep 'em out of the end zone.''


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