Sanders doesn't worry Chavis

Many observers assume the presence of former Tennessee aide Randy Sanders on Kentucky's coaching staff will give the Wildcats a better chance to win Saturday's regular-season finale at Neyland Stadium.

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis figures that's utter nonsense.

"We're going to play football," he said. "It doesn't matter who's on the other sideline – who's coaching, who's playing. You just go play football. I have a tremendous respect for Randy but the fact he's on the other sideline this week doesn't change what we do or how we think."

Certainly, Sanders knows UT's personnel and its tendencies better than most. Still, Chavis says that's no big deal.

"We're going to do what we do. We're not going to do anything different," he said. "If you're smart enough you can look on film and see that without someone telling you."

A much greater concern than Sanders' knowledge is Tennessee's injuries. Linebacker Jerod Mayo, perhaps the Vols' most productive defensive player, will miss Saturday's game due to injury. Rico McCoy will start in his place.

Asked about the the impact of Mayo's absence, Chavis replied: "You have to play with the ones you've got. We're accustomed to doing that. We don't make excuses; we go on.

"Rico McCoy's going to start, then we'll see from there. Anything after that will be patch-work. We've done a pretty good job of that before. If we need to do it, we'll do it again."

Phillip Fulmer expects McCoy to do just fine.

"I expect big things from Rico McCoy and for him to step up as others have throughout the course of the year," the Vols' head man said.

With Mayo out, Ellix Wilson will get more playing time behind starting middle linebacker Marvin Mitchell. Fulmer noted that Wilson "has played well when he's had a chance."

First-team defensive end Antonio Reynolds missed last week's game with Vanderbilt and may sit out the Kentucky game, as well. If so, Robert Ayers again will be starting in his place, with Wes Brown again providing depth at the position.

"Those guys have played well for us all year but they're works in progress," Chavis said. "Robert's young and Wes is even younger. They need a lot of experience before they're going to be polished players."

Help at end is on the way in the form of Andre Mathis but that help won't be of much consequence until next year. The converted middle linebacker is still learning the nuances of defensive line play.

"He's a talented athlete, and we've got to find a place to get him on the field," Chavis said. "He's a big guy that can run. He's got great strength, and it (end) may be a good home for him. We're kind of committed to doing that right now and he's committed to it. He's had a great attitude about it. I think there's a good possibility he can help us there."

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