Veteran DBs a luxury

When a guy in your front seven makes a mistake, the price is six yards. When a guy in your secondary makes a mistake, the price is six points. Thus, the return of Tennessee's entire starting secondary from 2005 is somewhat reassuring to John Chavis. But not VERY reassuring.

"It is (reassuring) with the starting four," the defensive coordinator conceded. "We've got four or five that, if you could assure me they'll be healthy for every game, it would be pretty reassuring.

"But we've got to plan on the ‘what-if' there. If we get somebody banged up there, we've got to have some young guys ready to play. We've got some great, great experience in the four starters but we've got to get some other people ready to play."

Tennessee's secondary was the defense's weak link in 2005. The Vols allowed 215.7 passing yards per game, ranking 10th among the 12 SEC schools. Tennessee allowed opponents to complete 59.9 percent of their passes. Only Kentucky (62.2) and Mississippi State (61.3) were worse.

Despite these awful statistics, Chavis believes UT's secondary got considerably better as the 2005 season progressed. With six new starters in the 2006 front seven, the coordinator is hoping for steady improvement in that area as the '06 season progresses.

"Our secondary really grew up last year," he said. "Now we're going to have to do that with the front and linebackers. They're going to have to grow up in a hurry. We can't be sitting around and waiting with the schedule we've got."

The better Tennessee's secondary plays, the more blitzing and stunting Chavis can do with the front seven. Likewise, the better the front seven plays, the more chances the coordinator can take in the secondary.

"How much we can do will be dictated by how fast they learn," he said. "You've got to bring ‘em along and let those units mesh. The biggest thing we've got to do as a coaching staff is not put our young kids in situations they're not ready for."

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