Run 'D' needs an upgrade

Tennessee's football team was eighth in the SEC and 72nd nationally in rushing defense last year, allowing an average of 146.7 yards per game. Penn State's Tony Hunt shredded UT for 158 yards in the Outback Bowl, then said the Vols weren't very physical.

"I felt very disrespected," said Vol linebacker Jerod Mayo, who didn't play in the game due to injury. "For him to make those comments about us was a slap in the face. That's our goal this spring, to be more physical."

That's also head coach Phillip Fulmer's goal – making the 2007 front seven tougher and more physical against the run. The Vols allowed 1,907 rushing yards last fall. That was more than double the 2005 total of 906 yards and the most a UT defense has allowed since Larry Lacewell's 1990 defense surrendered 2,054 rushing yards.

"We weren't nearly as good in the defensive front as we have been," Fulmer said recently. "We led the league in interceptions but, sack-wise we were down, and versus the run we were down. It won't be a quick fix. It will be a long, hard process for those guys.

"Probably the biggest concern for me right now is our defensive front and becoming the kind of defensive front we are accustomed to being. Replacing Justin Harrell – although we didn't have him a great period of time – and Turk McBride will be a big-time challenge for us."

When asked how Tennessee can become more physical, defensive coordinator John Chavis bristled.

"I think we've been pretty damned physical around here for a long time," he said. "We struggled a little bit last year from time to time but if you go back and look at the numbers I think the numbers speak for themselves."

Here are the numbers under Chavis:

1995: UT allowed 1243 rushing yards

1996: UT allowed 1168 rushing yards

1997: UT allowed 1119 rushing yards

1998: UT allowed 1127 rushing yards

1999: UT allowed 986 rushing yards

2000: UT allowed 817 rushing yards (school record)

2001: UT allowed 1024 rushing yards

2002: UT allowed 1672 rushing yards

2003: UT allowed 1798 rushing yards

2004: UT allowed 1560 rushing yards

2005: UT allowed 906 rushing yards

2006: UT allowed 1907 rushing yards

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