Nebraska flashback

Good news: Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis has faced an offense similar to the one Air Force will be using Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. Bad news: It happened Jan. 2, 1998, the night Nebraska hammered the Vols 42-17 in the Orange Bowl at Miami.

More good news: The Falcons aren't blessed with a quarterback as talented as the Cornhuskers' Scott Frost or a tailback as explosive as the Cornhuskers' Ahman Green. More bad news: The 2006 Vols aren't blessed with Leonard Little, Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson or Terry Fair.

Still more good news: It wasn't Nebraska's triple option that doomed Tennessee on that fateful night in 1998.

"We did a great job stopping their option," Chavis recalled. "Then they came out and ran it between the tackles – power football – for about 200 yards in the second half. Hopefully, we won't let that happen. Hopefully, we'll play the option good and not give up anything inside on the power game."

One of the biggest problems in facing triple-option teams is simulating the unconventional attack in practice. That makes preparation a tremendous challenge.

"You never get the speed," Chavis said. "That's the thing you worry about."

Because Tennessee's scout-squad quarterbacks can't simulate the speed of opposing option QBs, there is a tendency for Vol defenders to overrun option plays in practice. Strange as it sounds, Chavis finds that encouraging.

"When we get ready for an option team, unless I see a lot of overruns in practice, I'm a little concerned," the coordinator said. "If we're overrunning in practice, usually your timing in the game is close. We want to make sure we're well out in front of everything we see in practice. If we do that, we're in good shape."

Given how difficult it is to prepare for an option team, you wonder why the unorthodox system isn't more popular. Chavis says there's a very good reason.

"I don't think you'd be able to recruit a lot of talent; nobody wants to play that offense," the coordinator said. "Guys want to be in a wide-open offense."

Although the Air Force "flex-bone" resembles the Nebraska offense Chavis faced in 1998 to some extent, he says it's basically "a spin-off of the old wishbone they used to run at Oklahoma."

Preparing for the Falcons' flex-bone is made even tougher by the fact it falls between two spread offenses – Cal's and Florida's – on Tennessee's schedule.

"If you were making the schedule, you wouldn't do it this way," Chavis said. "But I don't make the schedule. I just get our kids ready to play. That's what I'm concerned with. Hopefully, we'll come out of this game in good shape."

Surely, they'll come out of it in better shape than they did in the ‘98 Orange Bowl.


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