Chavis wants more from run defense

Defensive coordinator John Chavis said Tennessee's run defense is improving, but it's got to improve some more if the Vols hope to contend for the SEC East Division.

Chavis wasn't happy about some of the runs allowed during Saturday's second major scrimmage of August camp.

``We gave up some runs we're not real excited about,'' Chavis said.

When asked about the front four improving against the run, Chavis said you can't disregard the linebackers and safeties, who play such a key role in run support.

``That's all a big part of it,'' Chavis said. ``It's not just the front four. But our front four has got to get better. There's no question about it.

``We've got to look at where we are scheme-wise and decide exactly how much we can do.''

That could mean a look at the 3-4, which the Vols haven't used much at all thus far after taking a long look at the alignment in the spring.

Tennessee would use the 3-4 for several reasons, Chavis said: One, lack of quality defensive tackles; two, an abundance of linebackers; three, a change of pace for opposing offenses.

Tennessee shut down California's run game a year ago, holding the Bears to 64 yards on 23 rushes. Cal went on to average 162.4 rushing yards per game (4.9 per carry). The Bears had over 190 rushing yards in five games, including 241 in a 45-10 victory over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl.

But the Bears couldn't muster much of a ground attack against Tennessee.

Cal has lost Marshawn Lynch, the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year who became just the second Bear back with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He holds the school record with 3,230 career rushing yards.

Justin Forsett is the top returning back. He gained 999 yards in 2005. Playing behind Lynch, Forsett, a senior, has over 1,600 career yards and six 100-yard games while averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

Chavis said he was as impressed with Forsett as Lynch, and he said Forsett was the faster back.

That means UT's run defense will be a key against California.


Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks is convinced tackle J.T. Mapu will be a much better play this fall than last fall, when he was rusty returning from a two-year Mormon mission.

``I don't think there's any question,'' Brooks said of Mapu's improvement. ``He had a good offseason and got some weight off. He was too heavy when he came back. He didn't have near the leg or back strength he needed. Whatever we got out of him last year was a bonus.''

Mapu was a non-factor last year. He had eight tackles in 13 games. Before he left on the mission, he had 26 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2003.

Mapu has dropped about 15 pounds from last season and is noticeably quicker.

Coach Phillip Fulmer is encouraged by what he's seen from Mapu.

``He's way ahead of where he was last year at this time, from a conditioning, fundamental and technique standpoint,'' Fulmer said.

Brooks said the other projected starter at tackle, Demonte Bolden, has improved.

``He's taking coaching,'' Brooks said. ``He's grown up – we hope. He's been more consistent, knock on wood.''

Brooks said Walter Fisher, converted from end to tackle, has been battling Bolden for a starting spot. Dan Williams is also in the rotation.

``We've got four fighting to play,'' Brooks said. ``We don't have a fifth guy ready. That's not good this far into camp. We need to have a guy step up. We're not going to anoint someone.''

Donald Langley, who enrolled in January, may get into the rotation, Brooks said.

``He's in the competition to be the next guy,'' Brooks said. ``He's so far ahead of where he was in January, it's not even close.''

Another candidate is Chase Nelson, who is undersized after being moved from end.


Tight ends caught six passes – including a short touchdown grab - in the scrimmage but dropped three.

Matt Luke, tight ends coach, didn't like the drops but liked the way his position players bounced back.

``That was good to see,'' Luke said. ``We've got to play a complete game. Hopefully, we can get all the bad plays behind us and build on the good ones and get ready for Cal.''

Luke has no doubt the tight ends can produce.

``But they've got to prove it the whole time, not part of the time,'' Luke said.

Jeff Cottam caught three passes. Chris Brown caught two. Brad Cottam caught one.

Luke likes the versatility of the group and he hopes their ability to adjust to formations will result in some positive mismatches against opponents.

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