Chavis energized

When Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is surrounded by veteran players, he always seems to develop a salty stop unit. When he is surrounded by young players, he always seems to develop a little extra spring in his step.

The challenge of preparing green defenders to compete in the rugged Southeastern Conference clearly energizes the Vol coordinator. That was the case this spring, as Chavis readily admits.

"One of the things you get gratification out of is seeing young men grow and mature," he says. "Not only does that need to happen for their sake but if you don't win … (long pause, followed by a sheepish grin) … you're going to be in trouble."

Tennessee will field one of its youngest defenses of recent years in 2006 due to the departure of six members of the 2005 starting front seven. Dealing with so many inexperienced players is a tough task but it's one Chavis clearly relishes. He seems to feed off of the youthful energy and enthusiasm of his troops.

"It's fun to watch them grow as men," he says. "It's fun to watch those guys grow as players. It's fun to watch a defense grow. I look forward to coaching young guys."

It's a lot more fun, of course, when those "young guys" are talented, coachable and dedicated to becoming SEC-caliber players. Chavis believes he has plenty of that type athlete available this year.

"We've got a lot of outstanding young people who are willing to work," he says. "We've got a lot of work to do but that's part of coaching. You want to go out there and see them turn from a group of young, inexperienced guys to a really fine defense."

And you want to see if happen between now and Sept. 2, when an explosive California team visits Knoxville.

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