Tennessee played mostly man-to-man coverage in the first half of last Saturday's game with Auburn and surrendered a whopping 240 passing yards before intermission. The Vols played more zone thereafter and allowed just 12 second-half passing yards. Of course, these numbers are skewed by the fact Auburn had a 31-3 halftime lead and didn't throw as much in the final two quarters.
Chavis mixes in some zone coverage each week so opponents can't assume they'll see man-to-man coverage every play. Man-to-man is clearly his preference, however, because he likes the aggressive tone it sets.
''For a lot of years we've taken a lot of pride in being a pressure defense, and that's what we want to be this year,'' he said. ''I'm not going to be so hard-headed that I'm going to intentionally put 'em in bad situations but we're going to work toward that (pressure up front and man-to-man coverage in the secondary).''
As much as he likes man-to-man, however, Chavis appears likely to go with more zone than usual this weekend.
''It's my job to call things they can execute,'' he said, ''so that's what I've got to do a better job of -- calling things they can execute.''
Although playing passively in the front seven and playing zone coverage in the secondary tends to reduce the risk of long passes, this strategy sometimes backfires. Less pressure from the front seven means the quarterback has more time to throw. And zone coverage puts greater run support responsibilities on the safeties.
''To stop the run, you really have to get your safeties involved,'' Chavis noted. ''It puts your corners one-on-one without any pressure, and those are situations you try to avoid. And if you play a lot of double zone, teams that run the ball are going to play-action and get you on vertical routes.''
Clearly, Chavis faces a diliemma this weekend. How well he handles that dilemma will go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's Vol-Bulldog game.