Can Vols mash the minnows?

Tennessee football fans undoubtedly remember the unorthodox defenses John Thompson has used against the Vols. What they tend to forget is this: For all of his bizarre antics, Thompson has NEVER beaten the Vols. He's 0-5 for his career.

Thompson was 0-2 against the Big Orange during his stint as defensive
coordinator at Southern Mississippi -- losing big in 1995 (42-0) and '97
(44-20).

Thompson had better luck at Memphis, where his Tiger defense frustrated
Tennessee but still came out on the wrong side of a 17-16 score in 1999.

Thompson's next stop was Arkansas, where his defense was shredded by
Tennessee 63-20 in 2000. Last year's rematch saw UT win 13-3 but the game
was played in a tropical monsoon, so the score was misleading.

The point is, Thompson's defensive gimmickery is colorful but it hasn't been
successful against the Vols. Now that he's defensive coordinator at Florida,
he's using those same schemes, even though he has higher-quality athletes at
his disposal now.

''He's still the same John Thompson ... still doing the same things he's
been doing,'' Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''As Coach
Dickey (UT Athletics Director Doug Dickey) said one time: It looks like
minnows in a bucket. They're just everywhere.''

Because Thompson routinely has players shifting positions right up until the
ball is snapped, Tennessee's offensive linemen will have some difficulty
pinpointing their blocking assignments when the Vols and Gators tee it up
Saturday afternoon.

''It's hard sometimes to sort out who's who and who's supposed to block
who,'' Sanders said. ''They'll get you sometimes but, hopefully, you'll
catch them out of position sometimes and make plays. That's a big key. We've
GOT to make the plays when we have the opportunities.''

Essentially, that's what Miami did two weeks ago, when the Hurricanes routed
Florida 41-16.

''Miami obviously ran the ball very well,'' Sanders said. ''It looked like
Florida got confused, got out of position.... When Florida was out of
position, Miami made 'em pay for the mistakes.''

Although Thompson's antics gave Tennessee trouble in 1999, the Vols should
be better equipped to handle them this year. They've had time to study and
adjust to his bizarre tactics.

''We're accustomed to making those adjustments,'' UT head man Phillip Fulmer
said. ''We see a lot of that style now -- 3-3 stuff, moving around of folks,
extreme slant movements, linebacker run-throughs and such. It's still
difficult, still a problem with your discipline, your steps and your angles.

''But if you understand the problems, you've got a better chance to be
successful against it.''


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