Protecting the flanks

Like a combat leader, Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis knows it's vital to protect your flanks. His troops learned that lesson the hard way earlier this season, allowing Nevada-Las Vegas, Florida, Louisiana Tech and Auburn to make some big plays running wide.

Chavis has fortified the flanks since then, however. The result? Tennessee limited Georgia to 56 rushing yards in Game 6 and Ole Miss to 89 in Game 7.

''We've been able to contain runs,'' the Vol aide said. ''You haven't seen runs get on the perimeter the way they did earlier. If you've got great speed and you get on the perimeter, you're going to gain yardage. That's where we got hurt earlier in the year, and I think we're much improved from that standpoint.''

Tennessee's run defense improved dramatically from Game 1 to Game 6. But, as always, Chavis blames himself for the early problems and credits the players with the recent strides.

''I really envisioned us playing better early than we did,'' he said. ''Now we've been able to eliminate that. Some of those big plays had to do with scheme but more of it had to do with technique ... and technique is what you go out and coach every day. When your players understand where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to do, then you become a sound defense.''

Tennessee was not a sound defense in September and early October. That has changed in recent weeks, however.

''Because of some execution early, we were not very sound. That was certainly, certainly disappointing,'' Chavis said. ''But, at the same time, that's a coaching thing you've got to get corrected on the field. You've got to put them in situations to do things they can do. I think we're doing a much better job of that.''

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