Tackling must improve

Tennessee's coaching staff noticed the same thing Tennessee's fans did during last Saturday's 30-13 loss to Florida: The Vols' tackling was lousy.

After reviewing the game films, defensive coordinator John Chavis reports
that the Big Orange missed a whopping 21 tackles on Gator ballcarriers.
That's unacceptable.

Why did the Vols do such a poor job of tackling against Florida after doing
a good job vs. Wyoming and Middle Tennessee State?

''Obviously, they're tackling better players,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer
said. ''That would be the first thing. The open-field thing is a tougher
tackle to make. The weather and footing sure didn't give us any help. We
didn't bring our feet (keep them moving) well enough and we didn't wrap our
arms well enough. We were sliding off and sliding around a lot. A lot of
times the defensive guys are at a disadvantage when it's wet.''

That may be true, but Chavis -- never one to make excuses -- declined to use
the sloppy conditions as an alibi for UT's sloppy tackling.

''They (Gators) didn't have a problem tackling,'' he said.

Basically, Chavis said the blame for Tennessee's poor effort against Florida
falls on him and his assistants.

''We didn't have 'em ready to tackle,'' he said. ''About 90 percent of
tackling is discipline, and I think we lost our discipline some. When you
lose your discipline, you get a little sloppy, and I think we did that for a
period in the game.''

The coordinator said Tennessee emphasizes tackling techniques in practice
every week but that he has placed ''a big emphasis'' on fundamentals this

Fulmer defended UT's defensive performance by noting that the Gators ''got
almost half of their yardage on 10 plays.'' Most of these yards came on long
completions made after Rex Grossman broke tackles in the backfield.

Asked if the defense performed reasonably well except for those 10 plays,
Chavis answered, ''If you take those 10 plays out, we played super. But you
can't look at it that way. Four or five bad plays can lose a ball game. Ten
plays is enough to get you beat TWICE.''

Chavis grew so upset when UT allowed 24 second-quarter points that he left
his perch in the press box and coached the second half from the Vol
sidelines. The players seemed to respond, limiting Florida to six
second-half points.

''They liked the idea that I was down there with 'em,'' he said. ''Those are
my guys and I'm responsible for them. I wanted them to know I believe in

Asked if he might consider coaching the remaining games from the sidelines,
instead of the coaching booth, Chavis replied: ''Yeah, we may put some
thought to that.''

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