MTSU backs concern Chavis

The Middle Tennessee State University sports information staff thinks Blue Raider star Dwone Hicks might be the best running back in college football, but UT defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't sure Hicks is even the best running back at MTSU.

Although Middle is pushing Hicks for the Heisman, Chavis thinks backup Reshard Lee is just as good ... maybe better.

''Their backs are as good as any we'll be play,'' he said. ''They could play for any team we play, and it's not just one ... it's two. I wouldn't get into a situation of saying who's best. Both of them look pretty special on film.''

Lee outrushed Hicks 56 yards to 42 in last Saturday's season-opening 39-34 loss at Alabama, with each back getting 11 carries. For that matter, Blue Raider quarterback Andrico Hines (8 carries, 49 yards) also outgained Hicks.

''To be honest with you, it's like having a third running back in the backfield,'' Chavis said of Hines. ''He's a threat to run the football, as well as throw it. They use a shotgun offense but they're more geared toward running the ball than throwing it. They're balanced, though. They've thrown the ball very well, too.''

Chavis knew heading into this season that MTSU could be an offensive juggernaut. So, he wasn't at all surprised when he learned that the Blue Raiders had hung up 34 points on a supposedly stout Bama defense in Game 1.

''That's what they did all last year, so it's kind of what you expect,'' the coordinator said. ''They move the ball and execute their offense as well as anybody in the country. They've got a bunch of seniors in the offensive line, and I don't know that you'll find a group that's better coached. I don't know that you'll find a group that executes their offense any better.''

Certainly, MTSU executed its offense beautifully once it got untracked in Game 1.

''They got off to a little bit of a slow start (vs. Bama) but when they finally got going, I don't think they got stopped,'' he said. ''I'd have to check to make sure, but I think they scored six of their last seven possessions.''

That kind of success against a defense as rugged as Alabama's suggests Tennessee's stop unit could be seriously tested this Saturday night.

''We've got a big challenge on our hands,'' Chavis said. ''We've got to be at the top of our game to slow 'em down any.''

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