Cut, Kines to match wits

David Cutcliffe has matched wits with Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines many times in the past. But this is a different Kines. It's also a different Cutcliffe. And that should make for an interesting chess match Saturday when the seventh-ranked Vols host Alabama.

Kines, who's been at Alabama since 2003, has been defensive coordinator at Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. At each stop, he's faced Tennessee. At each stop, he's faced Cutcliffe.

Cutcliffe had Kines' number when Kines was at Georgia. Cutcliffe also had Peyton Manning, and with Manning, the Vols averaged 32.2 points in three games against Kines' Bulldogs.

Joe Kines has faced Tennessee 13 times as a head coach (Arkansas, 1992) or defensive coordinator. He's won four times. In the four wins, his defense allowed at least 24 points in each game except last year, when the Crimson Tide prevailed 6-3.

In UT's nine wins over Kines, the Vols have averaged 29.9 points per game. That includes 51 in five overtimes in 2003. One UT win was 16-14 in 1985, when the Vols' Tony Robinson was injured, and in 2004, when UT managed a 17-13 victory.

Kines' used to employ a zone. Now, he's married to man-to-man.

``He's changed a lot through the years,'' Cutcliffe said of Kines. ``That's a tribute to Joe. When you stay in this business as long as we have, you have to adjust and you have to change with the game. I think he's done that extremely well.''

Against Manning, Kines used to rush three and drop eight in pass coverage. With time to throw, Manning picked apart that scheme. Kines was at Florida State for three years (2000-02) before joining Mike Shula's staff in Tuscaloosa. He brought with him the Seminoles' attacking style of defense.

``A few years ago at Alabama, they made a drastic change and since that time, they've certainly been one of the top defenses in the country,'' Cutcliffe said. ``They've gone to a lot more man to man, a lot less zone. They're much more versatile with a pressure attack and secondary blitz. That's not what he'd done a lot of in the past.''

The past two years, despite NCAA sanctions that limited scholarships numbers, Kines coaxed his defense into leading the nation in pass defense in 2004 and scoring defense in 2005. The Tide was No. 2 in the nation in total defense in 2004 and 2005.

Alabama's defense isn't nearly that good this season. The Tide ranks fourth in the SEC in run defense, fifth in total defense, sixth in scoring defense and seventh in pass defensive efficiency.

Yet, when Cutcliffe flips on the tape, he sees a formidable defense.

``They can really run,'' Cutcliffe said. ``They've got a lot of playmakers on defense. They're not afraid to pressure you. They're going to challenge us pretty quickly in that department.''

Alabama's best two defenders are cornerbacks Ramzee Robinson and Simeon Castille. Juwan Simpson is on the Butkus watch list as one of the nation's top linebackers while freshman Prince Hall is a budding star at middle linebacker and Terrance Jones is a solid outside linebacker. Wallace Gilberry and Jeremy Clark are the top down linemen.

Cutcliffe said the Alabama scheme is different from most teams UT has faced.

``They've gone to more three down (linemen) but they also have an extensive four-down package,'' Cutcliffe said.

Most teams UT plays run a 4-3, not the 3-4 utilized by Alabama.

Alabama lost seven quality starters off the SEC's best defense from a year ago, a defense that allowed the Vols one measly field goal in a 6-3 Tide triumph. But Cutcliffe believes the Tide has done a nice job of reloading.

``A lot of these guys that weren't, quote, returning starters, have played a lot of football,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Joe Kines is experienced. He understands that. A lot of these guys I saw in 2004 (while head coach at Ole Miss). They may not have been starters at the time, but they played a lot of football.''

Florida and Arkansas didn't move the ball that well against Alabama and each needed defensive touchdowns to turn back the Tide.

``They do a great job of keeping the ball in front of them,'' Cutcliffe said. ``They've got some experienced secondary players. Yes, they lost some good football players, but they've done as good a job as I've seen of looking like the same Alabama team again.''

That could spell trouble for Tennessee. Then again, Tennessee doesn't look anything like the offense that mustered only three points against Kines' unit a year ago.

Kines has changed with the times.

So has Cutcliffe.

It should be an intriguing chess match Saturday afternoon between two old rivals.


1984 at Florida – Florida won 43-30

1985 at Alabama – UT won 16-14

1986 at Alabama – Alabama won 56-28

1992 at Arkansas – Arkansas won 25-24

1993 at Arkansas – UT won 28-14

1994 at Arkansas – UT won 38-21

1995 at Georgia – UT won 30-27

1996, at Georgia -- UT won 29-17

1997, at Georgia – UT won 38-13

1998 at Georgia – UT won 22-3

2003 at Alabama – UT won 51-43 (5 OT)

2004 at Alabama – UT won 17-13

2005 at Alabama – Alabama won 6-3


Pat Forde, senior writer for, has Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge No. 3 on his weekly Heisman ballot, behind Ohio State's Troy Smith and West Virginia running back Steve Slaton.

Ainge's numbers are comparable to Smith's.

In six games, Ainge has completed 118 of 171 passes (69.0 percent) for 1,657 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions. His pass efficiency rating is 171.57.

In seven games, Smith has completed 116 of 170 passes for 1,495 yards and 17 touchdowns with just two interceptions. His pass efficiency rating is 172.75. More mobile than Ainge, Smith has rushed for 124 yards.

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