''I've always said, 'When you hear a lot of chatter on the defensive football field, you know you're playing with experienced players,'' he said. ''Guys are talking to one another, making calls, communicating. That's something we were missing at the beginning of the year.''
Chavis tried to get his defenders to talk it up back in August and September, but they simply didn't respond.
''Early in fall practice I almost pulled my hair out,'' he said. ''You tried to get them to communicate with each other but they didn't feel comfortable. Finally, we got to the point where we're communicating.''
The Vols must be chattering at full throttle these days because their defensive performances in November have been remarkable. Tennessee has not allowed a touchdown in three of the last four games -- limiting Duke to two field goals, Miami to one field goal and Vanderbilt to zilch.
Moreover, the FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE has allowed just one touchdown in the last four games ... that coming in the first quarter of the Mississippi State blowout. If you discount a couple of late TDs Mississippi State scored against scrub defenders, Tennessee's defense has allowed just 16 points over the past four games, exactly 4.0 points per game.
In addition to better communication, Chavis says much of the credit for UT's sparkling defensive play is due to added maturity.
''I think (guys are) learning how to play the game and understanding how to play the game,'' he said. ''Last week (in a 48-0 shutout of Vandy) was the best we've been prepared. I think our players were really into it. They understood what we were trying to do and they understood Vanderbilt's attack.''
And, apparently, they were chattering like crazy all game long.