Can UT stop the pass?

Tennessee has faced just one quality passer to date -- Florida's Chris Leak -- yet the opposition's passing stats are downright alarming.

Nevada-Las Vegas, Florida and Louisiana Tech combined to complete 59.6 percent of their passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns. The three foes averaged a healthy 13.7 yards per completion and a whopping 241.7 passing yards per game.

Tennessee has been shuffling its personnel in an effort to stop the bleeding. So far, the changes in personnel have brought no significant changes in terms of success.

After Game 1, Jason Allen move from corner to safety ... Corey Campbell and Roshaun Fellows moved to the bench ... Jonathan Wade and Jonathan Hefney moved into the starting cornerback spots. Fellows has since reclaimed his cornerback spot, bumping Wade to second-team. Campbell is competing with Brandon Johnson for the first-team job at strong safety after losing the first-team job at free safety.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis says the youth and inexperience of Tennessee's secondary is no longer an excuse for sloppy pass defense.

''At the beginning of the season we could say we were a young football team,'' he said. ''But we've got three games under our belts now, and we expect them to start executing a lot better.''

Chavis added that the front four deserves some of the blame for the pass-defense woes, as well.

''Another thing is pressure,'' he said. ''It's all tied together. A secondary can look really great if you're getting good pressure (on the passer). If you're not -- I don't care who you are -- if you give 'em enough time (you'll give up completions). That's happened to us a couple of times. If you give a receiver enough time to come from one side of the field and catch a pass on the other side, it's hard to put that (blame) on coverage.

''It's all tied together. The pressure's got to be there and the coverage has to be there for it to work good.''

One factor working in Tennessee's favor is this: The Vols face just one top-notch passer the rest of the season -- David Greene of Georgia. They would've faced two but Alabama's Brodie Croyle suffered a season-ending knee injury against Western Carolina.

Game 4 foe Auburn is a run-oriented team with a so-so quarterback (Jason Campbell). After facing Greene in Game 5, the Vols encounter a stretch of run-oriented teams with quarterbacks who have had limited success passing the ball -- Ethan Flatt of Ole Miss, Mark Guillon of Alabama, Dondrial Pinkins of South Carolina and Brady Quinn of Notre Dame. Game 10 foe Vanderbilt has an above-average passer in Jay Cutler, then the Vols close the season by facing Kentucky's Shane Boyd, who is more of a running threat than a passing threat.

Of course, UNLV and Louisiana Tech featured unheralded passers, yet each of them feasted on Tennessee's pass defense.

Bottom line: If Tennessee is to challenge for the SEC East title, it must upgrade its pass defense ... significantly AND immediately.


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