Leak concerns Chavis

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis got a taste of Chris Leak last year; this year he gets the whole meal.

After playing sparingly in last season's Tennessee-Florida game in Gainesville, Leak will start in Saturday night's rematch at Neyland Stadium. Even backing up Ingle Martin in 2003, he made his mark against UT, completing 9 of 12 passes for 76 yards.

''That's a pretty high percentage,'' Chavis said. ''If we give up 9 of 12, we're not going to win very many ballgames.''

Based on films of Florida's season-opening blowout of Eastern Michigan, Chavis says Leak is a much better player in 2004 than he was in 2003.

''The talent level hasn't changed but he's got a better feel for the speed of game and the competition in the SEC,'' the Vol coordinator said. ''I thought he did a tremendous job last year. He beat the national champions (LSU Tigers) at their place and he beat both teams that were in the SEC Championship Game (LSU and Georgia). That says a lot for him.''

Leak will be looking to exploit a Vol secondary that lost three starters from 2003 -- safeties Gibril Wilson and Rashad Baker, cornerback Jabari Greer. The UT secondary played so poorly in Game 1 this season that Chavis moved Jason Allen from corner to free safety and inserted two first-time starters -- Jonathan Hefney and Jonathan Wade -- at the cornerback spots. With a classy passer like Leak next on the schedule, this might not be the optimum time to put a revamped secondary on the field.

''There's still some question marks there,'' Chavis said. ''When you've got a young team, there's going to be some concerns and there's going to be some growing pains.''

Ultimately, the Vol coordinator is more concerned about the Gators running the ball through Tennessee's defense than throwing the ball over Tennessee's defense.

''They don't spread the formations out to throw the ball,'' he said. ''They spread you out to run the ball. If we don't stop the run, you may not see Leak throw a whole lot of balls because they may not have to.''

Although Hefney and Wade are inexperienced, Chavis feels good about their potential.

''They're doing very well,'' he said. ''They're very, very talented. You worry about them being a little bit inexperienced but talent, sooner or later, will catch up. Both of them have the talent to be outstanding corners for us. Hopefully, we've made up some ground. We'll know how much ground when we play Saturday night.''

Although the secondary has been singled out as Tennessee's greatest weakness, Chavis wasn't happy with the line or linebackers in the Game 1 defeat of Nevada-Las Vegas. The Vols weren't disciplined in their containment or their tackling, and that has Chavis upset.

''I like our personnel,'' he said, ''but I don't think there's a position -- even with the experience we've got at linebacker -- that's polished and ready to go compete. We've got a lot of work to do.''


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