Secondary shuffle, year 2

History has a way of repeating itself, and Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is getting a little tired of it.

After losing Inky Johnson to a season-ending injury in Game 2, the 2006 Vols had to face Florida in Game 3 without their best cover cornerback.

After losing Antonio Gaines to a season-ending injury in Game 2, the 2007 Vols have to face Florida in Game 3 without their best cover cornerback.

Johnson's injury turned out to be career-ending, as well as season-ending. Otherwise he'd be starting when Tennessee faces No. 4 Florida Saturday in Gainesville. Gaines also would be starting, of course, if not for a torn ACL.

"In a perfect world, there would be two guys starting for us that aren't here," Chavis says.

Last year, with Johnson sidelined, Tennessee moved strong safety Antwan Stewart to cornerback and inserted backup Demetrice Morley at strong safety. This year's adjustment was identical. With Gaines sidelined, Tennessee moved strong safety Eric Berry to cornerback and inserted backup Jarod Parrish at strong safety. Shuffling and reshuffling has been an ongoing process in UT's secondary the past few years.

"We've been adjusting for a long time; it's just what you've got to do," Chavis notes. "When you get injuries you've got to be able to move people around and get your best people on the field."

Gaines' second-quarter injury last weekend vs. Southern Miss forced Chavis to make the Berry and Parrish adjustments during the course of the game. The coordinator also scaled back his schemes a bit.

"It was easy last week. We just cut back," he recalls. "There's things you want to do but if you're not prepared to do those things you better cut back. You better make sure your players can go play. We're going to do our best to do what they can do."

Gaines' injury leaves Tennessee thin at cornerback. But Dennis Rogan, a freshman from Knoxville, is just about ready to join the playing rotation.

"He's getting close," Chavis says. "It's still a transition period for him but he's getting close. He's looking better and better in practice, and there's going to come a point when he's going to have to play. We're trying to push him along as quickly as we can."

Junior college transfer DeAngelo Willingham is already getting a taste of action. He'll get a bigger taste now that Gaines is sidelined.

"We feel comfortable with him being on the field," Chavis says. "There's some areas he needs to grow in but we definitely feel comfortable with him on the field."

After allowing Southern Miss to pass for 174 first-half yards last Saturday, Tennessee toughened up. Even with Gaines out, the Vols limited the Golden Eagles to 90 passing yards in the second half.

"We eliminated the big plays and the mistakes," Chavis said. "You have one guy that makes a couple of busts and gives up a total of about 70 yards on two plays, and you get a busted coverage that gives up 69 yards. That's about half of their yardage right there.

"When you give up plays like that you're going to get yourself beat, particularly against good football teams. The second half we didn't give up those big plays."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories