Dynamic defense

Despite playing top-10 foes each of the last two games, Tennessee's defense allowed a mere 503 yards of total offense – 247 by Florida and 256 by LSU.

That's fewer yards in two games than the 2004 Vols surrendered in ONE game on two occasions – versus South Carolina (567 yards) and Auburn (559 yards). Even so, defensive coordinator John Chavis considers his 2005 defensive unit to be a work in progress.

"When you come back after having some success, you find out how they're going to handle success," he said. "It's been a good group all year. They've worked hard and listened well. It's been amazing. They've done what we've asked them to do, and I don't expect anything different (vs. Ole Miss) this week."

Chavis knew in August his front four of Jesse Mahelona, Justin Harrell, Parys Haralson and Jason Hall would be strong. He knew his senior linebacking corps of Kevin Simon, Omar Gaither and Jason Mitchell would be exceptional. The concern was Tennessee's secondary.

That concern seemed well-founded when Alabama-Birmingham burned Tennessee for 282 passing yards in Game 1. But the secondary has rallied since then, limiting Florida to 179 passing yards and LSU to 158.

"Our secondary has made great strides," Chavis said. "I told you at the beginning of the year we were playing with good talent back there but no experience – particularly those two new safeties (Antwan Stewart, Jonathan Hefney) – but (just look at) what they're getting done."

In addition to good talent in the secondary, Tennessee has good competition. After seeing reserve action in Games 1, 2 and 3, Jonathan Wade has overtaken Roshaun Fellows for the cornerback spot opposite senior standout Jason Allen.

"There's competition out there," Allen noted. "You have to bring your A-Game every day because if you don't you can be demoted."


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