Chavis shuffles lineup ... again

John Chavis makes adjustments, not excuses <p> Tennessee's veteran defensive coordinator has had a busy fall -- shuffling and reshuffling his lineup due to injuries. Through it all, he has never used the rash of health problems as an alibi.

When first-team end Constantin Ritzmann suffered a torn ACL in preseason, Chavis responded by elevating Karlton Neal to first team.

When first-team linebacker Kevin Burnett suffered a torn ACL in Game 1, Chavis responded by elevating Kevin Simon to first team.

Now that Simon is out for the season with a fractured ankle, Chavis is forced to shuffle his defense again.

''We're going to start with (Robert) Peace in the middle and (Keyon) Whiteside on the outside,'' Chavis said, adding that redshirt freshman Jason Mitchell and true freshman Omar Gaither ''are going to have to step up and get ready to play for us.''

In addition, the coordinator said senior safety Steven Marsh ''is going to move to outside linebacker, and he'll be playing a good bit there.''

As if the injury problems weren't severe enough, Neal is slowed by a sore knee, forcing Chavis to start junior college transfer Mondre Dickerson at Neal's end spot.

Asked if he can ever remember so many injuries to key players, the coordinator nodded.

''Yeah,'' he said. ''In 1996, and that ended up being one of our best defenses. We go to the bowl game to play Northwestern and we had to move (tight end) Dustin Moore back to defensive end and Chester Ford from fullback to play defensive tackle because we didn't have anybody else. We'd lost Leonard Little, Billy Ratliff and two more guys upfront, and we were probably not as deep in '96 as we are right now.''

Despite the glut of injuries, Chavis absolutely refuses to make excuses.

''We've been spread thin before but we've gone on and played well,'' he said.''And that's what we expect and what our kids expect. We're going to get somebody ready to play. We'll have 11 of them out there that we'll expect to play like Tennessee Volunteers.''

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