UT's Thursday practice report

The common denominator when discussing Tennessee's 2005 football fortunes is a question of road work. Can the Vols withstand a challenging away schedule that includes visits to Florida, LSU, Alabama and Notre Dame?

The Florida and LSU tilts fall on consecutive Saturdays in late September, leaving UT no time to work its way toward being a complete football team.

"Consistency is what we're looking for in the preseason and we're more worried about Tennessee right now," associate head coach John Chavis said after Thursday's practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. "We do an extensive study every year in the offseason and when we got in trouble last year, it was when we made mistakes.

"We didn't make excuses about being young, but when we got in trouble it was when we made mistakes. We've got to eliminate those mistakes. You can't be up one play and then give up a play. We gave up too many plays last year."

Despite their youth, the Vols were at their best in road stadiums a year ago, going 4-0 with wins at Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. In fact, Tennessee owns the SEC's best conference road record over the last five years at 16-4, two games better than both Florida and Georgia and three games ahead of Auburn.

Going back over the past decade, the Vols' total of just eight road stadium losses in 40 games is matched only by Florida.

Thursday, Tennessee practiced for another 2 1/2 hours in 90-degree heat. Semi-scrimmage play of the 9-on-8 variety highlighted the middle portions, with UT's defenders seeming to hold the advantage.

"We're pleased with the work we got and it is good to get some good hot weather," Chavis said. "It was hot today but the kids responded well. We got some really good contact work, which we need to find out where we are -- particularly on defense with our safeties. We've got a lot of work to do with those guys."

The Vols' defensive coordinator says his side of the ball might be slightly ahead of last year's early August pace.

"I think at certain positions we are. We had more questions coming in at this time last year and we still have some questions now. But I think overall we're a little bit farther ahead. We just need to start working toward being consistent in everything we do."

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