One tough Cut

Mention "toughness" in a football context, and most people automatically think of hard-nosed defensive play. But toughness is an important component on offense, too … a component that may have been somewhat lacking at Tennessee lately.

The Vol attack unit was viewed as being too soft last fall. Toughness may be returning, however, now that David Cutcliffe is returning as quarterback coach/offensive coordinator. At least, that's the hope of John Chavis, UT's defensive coordinator.

"I think David brought a certain amount of toughness," Chavis said recently. "When you think about quarterback coaches, toughness isn't the first thing that you think about. But it's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about David. He's brought a certain amount of toughness with him, and it's been fun competing under those circumstances."

Cutcliffe was beginning his third year as UT's offensive coordinator when Chavis was elevated from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator in 1995. Chavis got off to a rocky start, allowing Florida to score 62 points in his third game as coordinator, but Cutcliffe helped him over the rough spots. In Chavis' fourth year as coordinator, his defense spurred Tennessee to the 1998 national title.

Chavis never forgot how helpful Cutcliffe was during his early years. So, when Randy Sanders resigned as Tennessee's offensive coordinator late last season, Chavis was thrilled to see Cutcliffe return to the coordinator post he had held from 1993-98.

"I don't want to reflect on someone else because I had a great relationship with Randy Sanders; I wish him all the best," Chavis said. "But David helped me a lot as a young coordinator. He helped me grow as a football coach, and I think we've helped each other grow as people.

"He's someone I've always had a tremendous respect for. The competition has been there. I think it made the spring practice intensity level pick up, and it needed to. We needed to get better in a hurry."

Chavis' respect for Cutcliffe didn't stop the defensive coordinator from running up the score in the spring game, however. Chavis' White squad hammered Cutcliffe's Orange team 34-7.

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