It's a chess match

A lot of opposing coaches out-recruit Steve Spurrier. A lot may outwork him. But very few outsmart him. Spurrier essentially turns a football field into a 100-yard chess board, figuring he'll make enough clever moves to get his opponent in checkmate.

Saturday night, when South Carolina visits Tennessee for a 7:45 kickoff, Spurrier will be matching moves with John Chavis. The Vol defensive coordinator is eager for the challenge but dismisses the chess match analogy.

"It's football," the Vol aide said. "They do what they do and we do what we do."

Chavis and Spurrier go way back. Spurrier's Florida Gators piled up 62 points on Chavis in 1995, his first year as UT's coordinator. Florida also burned UT for 35 points in '96 and 33 in '97.

Chavis got revenge in '98, limiting Spurrier's Gators to 17 points in an overtime victory. Florida scored just 23 points on Tennessee in '99, 27 in 2000 and 32 in 2001.

Based on the point totals, it appears Chavis' troops got better at defending Spurrier's offense through the years.

"I think so from time to time," Chavis said. "But the best game we played (against the Gators) was in '96, when they scored 35 points."

That '96 contest was a bizarre one. Florida hit a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-11 to grab a quick 7-0 lead. The Gators then exploited some costly Vol turnovers and went up 35-0 in the second quarter, despite gaining very few yards.

"We certainly didn't play fourth down very well," Chavis recalled. "After that, we gave up 28 points on 60 yards. The wheels ran off early but, all in all, that was one of our better performances."

The South Carolina offense Spurrier brings to Knoxville Saturday night will look a lot like the attacks he fielded at Florida.

"There's a lot of similarities," Chavis said. "They do a few things a little different. Anytime you progress you do some things a little differently, but it's very similar."

When asked if Spurrier has adjusted to the lower talent level at South Carolina than what he had at Florida, Chavis bristled a bit.

"Last time I looked the last four years they were in the top 25 in the country in recruiting," he said. "They've got talent, and they've been doing a great job moving the football and scoring points. They might not be quite as talented as some of the teams in the SEC but they've got good talent."

South Carolina scored just 15 points in a Game 2 loss to Georgia and 14 in a Game 3 loss to Alabama. Since then, however, the Gamecocks have averaged 32.8 points per game. Asked if Carolina is picking up momentum, Chavis shrugged.

"They're throwing the ball around and making plays," the coordinator said. "I don't know if they're picking up momentum. I hope not but you never know."


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