Different task for Vol D

Just because a guy strikes out four times against a knuckleball pitcher doesn't mean he's a bad hitter; it simply means he can't hit the knuckleball. Likewise, just because Tennessee couldn't stop Air Force's wishbone last weekend doesn't mean the Vols are a bad defense. It simply means they can't stop the wishbone.

Fortunately for Tennessee, it won't have to stop the wishbone this weekend. The Vols must stop Florida's spread option. They did a heck of a job in that regard last season, limiting the Gators to 247 yards of total offense and one touchdown. Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says that has no bearing whatsoever on this year's matchup, however.

"Every year is a different year," he said. "They've had a year to grow (in the spread option). It's a different challenge and a different opportunity."

Quarterback Chris Leak looked like a square peg being forced into a round hole as he tried to fit into the spread option last season. Head coach Urban Meyer made some changes the second half of the season, however, that enabled Leak to play better down the stretch. Florida's offense is even more Leak-friendly this fall.

"He looked a lot more comfortable in the first two games," Chavis noted. "He's obviously a very talented athlete, so you'd think he would adjust … and he has. The running game's going good for them, too. I think they rolled up 650 yards (637 to be precise) last week, so they've got it going on."

Leak's comfort level isn't the only change in Florida's attack this fall. The Gators are utilizing their personnel a little differently in an effort to get more production from their ground game.

"They've changed a little bit," Chavis said. "They're using the fullback some and they're getting to some I formation stuff out of the shotgun. The passing game hasn't changed a lot. They're still doing a lot of the same things. Where they've changed since we faced them is using the fullback a lot more as a lead blocker to help their run game."

Tennessee shut down California's run game in the opener, allowing just 64 net yards. The Vols allowed a whopping 281 rushing yards vs. Air Force's wishbone, however.

"We played really well in the California game," Chavis noted. "Our guys played extremely hard last week. It wasn't a lack of effort on their part. I probably didn't do enough to help them. It's hard to get a good measuring stick from that game but the California game they played well."

The inexperience of UT's linebackers complicates the attempt to slow down a Florida offense that is as varied as any the Vols will face. Chavis may have to keep things simpler than normal to accommodate their immaturity.

"We're not going to try to do anything we don't feel real comfortable with," he said. "We don't want to overload our guys. But, at the same time, we want to be multiple enough that, hopefully, we can cause Florida some problems."


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