Chavis gives thanks

As Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis ponders his blessings on Thanksgiving Day, his thoughts undoubtedly will turn to the dedicated young men who play for him.

Even when the Vol offense played like chumps during this disappointing season, Chavis' defense played like champs. And, even when the coordinator himself lost his enthusiasm, his troops kept theirs. Chavis admits that, following last Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt – a loss that insured UT's first losing record and first non-bowl season since 1988 – he was down in the dumps. When he showed up for Monday's practice, however, the energy and determination exhibited by his players lifted him out of his doldrums.

"We all have those points in our lives," Chavis said this week. "I was searching a little bit. Just being around this group of young men is very positive, and made me realize how fortunate I am. How dedicated and willing to go to work they were made me feel good about what I'm doing."

The enthusiasm and resiliency of Tennessee's defenders has been remarkable. Week after week they have carried a sputtering Vol offense without complaint. Week after week they have played at a championship level, only to feel the same sting of defeat as their offensive counterparts. Week after week they have persevered in the midst of the program's worst season in 17 years.

Chavis is a positive guy but even he has difficulty finding a silver lining in the 2005 season. Still, he's convinced there is one to be found somewhere.

"It's hard to say where it is right now but somewhere down the road I believe we'll see a positive," he said. "I really believe that. We've gone through some difficult times. We've had chances to win. It's not like we've gone out there and gotten blown out. We've been very, very close. There are some things we'll look at and we'll be better because of them."

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