Another option

After Air Force burned Tennessee for 281 rushing yards on Sept. 9, Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis made clear that he hoped to never see another triple-option offense. His reprieve lasted all of 14 days.

The Marshall team that invades Neyland Stadium this Saturday afternoon doesn't run the Air Force flexbone but it runs a variation of the triple option, and that's enough to put Tennessee's coaches on edge and put Vol defenders on red alert.

"Marshall is a dangerous football team," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Any time you have an athletic quarterback and an option attack, it gets interesting. We have not played that (the option) well this year, and we will do some significant work on it during this week to try and get that up to speed."

Like Air Force's Shaun Carney, Marshall's Bernard Morris is a smooth operator who can run and pass with equal skill. Morris has 235 rushing yards through three games and an impressive 5.6 yards-per-carry average. He also has completed 62.3 percent of his passes.

When Morris pitches the ball, it usually goes to Ahmad Bradshaw, a 5-11, 197-pound junior. He has 292 rushing yards, a 6.3 yards-per-carry norm and four touchdowns thus far.

Tennessee's stop unit is coming off a solid performance in Game 3, limiting a potent Florida attack to 320 yards of total offense. Unfortunately for the Vols, a few breakdowns enabled the Gators to score three touchdowns and prevail 21-20.

"There were some things we did really well," Chavis noted. "But, when you say, 'We played really good football with the exception of three or four plays,' you're usually talking about a game where you got beat.

"That's what happened in this one. We did a lot of good things but that's overshadowed by us not playing a couple of plays the way we needed to."

With Inquoris Johnson out for the year due to a shoulder injury, Chavis was forced to shuffle his secondary personnel. Strong safety Antwan Stewart started at cornerback for the first time since 2003. Sophomore Demetrice Morley made his first career start filling in for Stewart at strong safety. Except for two busts on drag routes, the patchwork secondary did a good job.

"We played well in the secondary most of the night ... extremely well," Chavis said.

The Vols played reasonably well across the line and at linebacker, too, but they missed enough tackles to enable Florida's DeShawn Wynn to rush for 104 yards. Now that Johnson and tackle Justin Harrell are through for the season, Tennessee's defense must close ranks to offset the loss of two key starters.

"We've just got to tighten some screws at all positions," Chavis said. "There's not any position or any unit where there isn't room for improvement. We can improve everywhere.

"Our focus is to get better. The kids are bouncing back from a tough loss but we've got to get ready and we've got to go on."

There's no other ... uh, option.

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