''I think they've done a really good job ... played a little better than I anticipated to this point,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said of his front four. ''I think they'll be challenged this week in a big way, and we need for them to continue to play well.''
Chavis' troops will be looking for redemption Saturday night. Auburn pushed Tennessee's defense all over the field in the first half of last year's game on The Plain en route to an early 21-0 lead.
''That's about all you can say,'' Chavis recalled. ''They got after us. They knocked us in the mouth.''
After its slow start, Tennessee's defense made some adjustments and did a much better job in the second half of the 2003 game than it had in the first. Chavis found that very encouraging.
''The big thing was, we didn't lay our hats on the field and say, 'We give,' '' he said. ''Our kids battled their rear ends off, and I'm awfully proud of that. You don't like to see that kind of start but they didn't completely cave in. They sucked it up and we finally were able to get the bleeding stopped.''
Odds are, Williams and Brown will run for around 100 yards each Saturday night. Tennessee can't expect to shut them down completely.
''They're going to have some success,'' Chavis said. ''If you look at every game they've played, with the exception of the USC game last year, they've been successful running the ball because they've got good personnel upfront and they've got two great running backs.''
Williams is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, yet some analysts believe Brown is an even better pro prospect. Regardless, they're as good a tandem as Chavis has seen.
''I'd have to say so,'' he said. ''And we've seen some good tandems. Those guys are going to play on Sunday for a long time.''