Armed and dangerous

Tennessee's 2006 defense hasn't been bullied all season but the Volunteers haven't had to face the kind of strong-arm tactics they will encounter Saturday afternoon against the 13th-ranked LSU Tigers.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell may not have the most accurate arm in college football but he probably has the most powerful arm.

"He's got a great arm," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says. "He can get it down the field 75 yards without any problem."

Russell has control of his fastball, too. He leads the Southeastern Conference in completion percentage (69.9) and passing efficiency (174.58 rating). He has thrown four interceptions but three of those came in one disastrous outing against Florida.

"He throws the ball exceptionally well," Chavis notes. "A lot of times when you talk about strong arms, you forget about how really accurate he is."

As if his arm weren't enough of a concern, Russell's size further complicates matters. He's 6-6 and 260 pounds, so blitzing a cornerback is a waste of time because Tennessee's corners will just bounce off of him.

Finally, Russell has good feet. He isn't a threat to scramble for 20 yards – as was the case with South Carolina's Syvelle Newton last week – but Russell can buy time by moving around in the pocket.

"If he scrambles, he's going to scramble and throw the football," Chavis says. "He doesn't really want to run it and, with his arm, I can understand why."

In short, Russell is the most physically gifted quarterback in the SEC.

"You don't know the intangibles but, athletically, there's no question," Chavis notes. "The arm's there, the mobility's there. He's got good touch on the short passes. And you can't relax in coverage because he's got great receivers to throw to."

That's a fact. Craig Davis (6-2, 207) leads the Tigers with 41 catches for 595 yards. Dwayne Bowe (6-3, 217) is the big-play guy, producing a 16.9-yard average and seven touchdowns on his 37 receptions. Early Doucet (6-0, 207) has 29 catches for 403 yards and four TDs.

Asked what stands out about the Tiger trio, Chavis replied: "Speed. They're really fast and big. We played most of the group last year, and they're really, really talented."

Still, Auburn shut down LSU Sept. 16 and won 7-3, proving that Les Miles' Tigers can be stopped.

"Auburn played ‘em really, really well," Chavis concedes.

So, did the coordinator learn anything from the Auburn-LSU game film?

"You take things from every game you study," Chavis notes. "Can you take advantage of those things? That remains to be seen."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories