The Randy Sanders factor

When Tampa Bay played the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl three years ago, the primary story line was coach Jon Gruden of the Bucs going against his former team. The Raiders knew what Gruden liked to do. Gruden knew what the Raiders liked to do.

So who had the advantage?

Tampa Bay won in a rout. Edge to Gruden. But why?

It wasn't so much that Gruden knew Oakland's tendencies. He knew the Raiders' personnel. He knew which receivers ran the best routes against a zone, which offensive linemen had trouble with a bull rush, which defensive backs were weak against man coverage. He knew, and he took advantage.

When Tennessee plays Kentucky on Saturday, Wildcats quarterback Randy Sanders will know about the Vols' personnel. He'll know the capabilities of the running backs, the receivers, and the offensive linemen. He'll know which defenses give quarterback Erik Ainge the most trouble. He'll know which defensive backs to pick on and which defensive ends like to rush wide only.

Sanders will know because he served as Tennessee's offensive coordinator from 1999-2005. The former UT quarterback was a Vols' assistant for 17 years before resigning last season, then heading to the Commonwealth to work under Rich Brooks.

Sanders will be a huge benefit to Kentucky. But will it be enough?

Probably not. But it could make for an interesting chess match between Kentucky's offense and the defense of defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Chavis and Sanders game planned together against opponents for seven seasons. They helped the Vols reach one BCS bowl and two SEC Championship games.

Now, Sanders will be on the enemy sideline for the first time in Neyland Stadium after spending more than 20 years in Orange as a player or coach.

``It will be an honor to see Coach Sanders again,'' said UT star receiver Robert Meachem. ``We'll have a few laughs before and after the game, just to let him know we still love him.''

Cornerback Jonathan Wade didn't sound so chummy.

``Friends are enemies when they have on the other color,'' Wade said.

Kentucky has the worst defense in the SEC but one of the best offenses. The Wildcats are fourth in the SEC in scoring and first in passing, ahead of Tennessee. Quarterback Andre Woodson leads the league in passing yards (2,934) and touchdown passes (27) while throwing just seven interceptions.

Woodson has several weapons in receiver Kennan Burton (66 for 964 yards, an SEC-best 12 touchdown catches) and Dicky Lyons Jr. Running back Rafael Little, who had over 100 yards rushing and over 100 yards receiving against Vanderbilt, had 82 rushing and 89 receiving against Louisiana-Monroe, along with an 84-yard punt return.

Sanders' smarts and Kentucky's talent will give Tennessee's defense fits.

But that will that enough for the Wildcats?

Not unless Sanders can block or tackle because the major difference in these teams can be found not in coaching, but in the line of scrimmage.


Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said he's not ready for this season to end, and he surely doesn't want it to end on a sour note.

``I hate to see the season end because it's been a fun year, a fun team to be around,'' Fulmer said. ``We've been energetic and exciting and I want to finish the season the way it started.''


Thank you, Jayson Swain. Thank you for handing the ball to the official after you scored a touchdown against Vanderbilt.

It was a simple act, but a class act.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I'm tired of seeing all those dances and fake jump shots and goofy antics that football players seem obliged to do after scoring a touchdown.

Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker needed to hurdle a defender to score on one of his touchdowns against Vanderbilt. The second time was nothing but showboating. It wasn't necessary. And I'm surprised he wasn't called for violating the celebration rule.

Coker said he was emulating Reggie Bush. That's fine if it's the difference in whether you score a touchdown. It's not fine if you're rubbing it in to an opponent or drawing attention to yourself.

I don't mean this as a slap just at Coker. Most everyone is doing it – except Swain.

We need more players to act like Swain. When you score a touchdown, act like you've been there before. Hand the ball to the ref, then go celebrate with your teammates. It seems this act has become as rare as the mid-range jump shot in basketball.

Thank you, Jayson Swain. You've been there before, and you acted like it.

EXTRA POINTS: Meachem caught seven passes for 95 yards, giving him season totals of 61 catches for 1,149 yards. Meachem needs 21 yards to match Marcus Nash's 1,170 in 1997. Meachem has two games to pass Nash. Nash also holds the single-season mark for receptions with 76. … Linebacker Rico McCoy had eight tackles – three for loss – replacing the injured Jerod Mayo but coach Phillip Fulmer was cautious in his praise: ``I know him well enough to know there are a million things he could have done better. He's a good prospect.'' … UT's first-down production was much improved against Vanderbilt as the Vols had 5 or more yards on 15 of 24 first downs. … Fulmer said he kept the starting secondary in the game on the last few drives because the defensive backfield is so depleted, ``We have no depth.'' … Fulmer said one reason he got into coaching was because of an inspirational speech he heard from the late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler in Chicago

Inside Tennessee Top Stories