Front four must make plays

Alabama coach Nick Saban has a 24-hour rule – that's how long you can dwell on a victory or defeat after a game.

Perhaps some Tennessee coaches feel the same way.

Several assistants weren't in the mood to talk about a 14-point loss at California during Tuesday's media day.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis raised his voice when he said it was time to focus on Southern Miss, tiring of questions about the defense against Cal.

Dan Brooks, defensive line coach, said he'd rather talk about Southern Miss, Saturday's opponent, than ``worry about one that's gone.''

Maybe that's the best approach for Tennessee to take – put the Cal game behind you and point to a Southern Miss team that is capable of upsetting the Vols.

Still, it's evident that Tennessee's defensive effort against Cal won't be good enough to win the East Division of the SEC – or perhaps even beat USM . Thus, the Vols are making two changes in the defensive lineup.

Eric Berry, a true freshman, will start at strong safety in place of Jarod Parrish. And Dan Williams, a sophomore, will start in place of senior J.T. Mapu, who was ineffective against Cal because he couldn't get off blocks.

Secondary coach Larry Slade said the move of Berry could be permanent.

Don't expect the move of Williams to be permanent. Mapu is too good of a player to get bumped to the bench long term. The Vols need Mapu to play well, just as they need others on the front four to play well.

The front four totaled 13 tackles against Cal. That's not the type production UT is seeking, although Chavis said the line didn't get dominated.

Maybe not, but not many players made plays. And one of the better players, end Xavier Mitchell, suffered the third concussion of his career and the second within a month. He hopes to play against Southern Miss, but he hasn't been cleared yet.

Tennessee's front four has become a bigger concern than coaches anticipated after finishing August camp.

The Vols didn't come close to getting a sack against Cal, and they've now recorded just one sack in their last five games.

Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell didn't know that stat – and he wishes it weren't true.

``It's real bothersome,'' Caldwell said. ``It's very frustrating that we're not making more things happen.

``I don't know if we need to blitz more. We come after people pretty good. We've got to get off blocks. … We can do better than what we're doing.''

Caldwell said he thought several ends played well against Cal; they just didn't make enough plays.

Brooks said Mapu ``got stuck on blocks a little too much,'' but he praised his effort and work ethic.

Despite the poor defensive performance against Cal, Caldwell believes UT can bounce back.

``I think we've got a good football team,'' Caldwell said. ``I think we've got a good defense. We faced a very good offense. We made them look good at times. But we're a lot better than what we played.''


Mitchell got knocked unconscious when his helmet hit the hip of teammate Berry.

Mitchell said his hands tingled when he made the hit, then he blacked out.

``I was ticked off,'' Mitchell said. ``I wish I could have finished the game. I promise you, I wasn't as nervous or scared as other people might have been.''

Mitchell said he fell asleep after the blow.

``When I woke up, I knew everything was all right,'' he said.

Did he have a dream?

``I dreamed that I played better,'' he said.

He has seen the film of the blow.

``It was like Evander Holyfield or Mike Tyson got a hold of me,'' he said. ``The worst part was me lying on the ground. It looked like I got hit in the jaw. … My head was killing me.''

Mitchell said he wants to play against Southern Miss, but the decision us up to UT's doctors.

Mitchell grew up one hour from USM and made an official visit to Hattiesburg. He knows the Eagles would love nothing better than to upset the Vols.

``I know what type team they are,'' Mitchell said. ``They strive on games like this because nobody really gives them a chance, but I know they'll come to play.''


A note in a Tennessee football release says that coach Phillip Fulmer declined a raise to seek additional compensation and contract extensions for his assistant coaches.

Fulmer did pursue pay hikes for his assistants, but he didn't decline a raise, according to UT athletic director Mike Hamilton.

Hamilton said Fulmer was never offered a raise, only a one-year extension. Hamilton said he and Fulmer never discussed giving Fulmer a raise after the 9-4 season. When Hamilton broke the news to us last spring that Fulmer wasn't getting a raise, Fulmer was taken aback when approached by media during a spring football practice.

It is commendable that Fulmer would fight for raises for his assistants, but it is not accurate to say he declined a raise, according to Hamilton.

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