UGA is big test for Vol secondary

Although Tennessee's secondary has played reasonably well this fall, it was burned repeatedly by Florida's Taylor Jacobs (9 catches for 141 yards, 2 TDs). Now Vol defensive backs must face a Georgia receiver corps that probably ranks as the best in the SEC.

'I don't know if they're the best,'' Vol cornerback Willie Miles said, ''but they are a VERY talented group.''

Terrence Edwards (20 catches for 249 yards and five touchdowns) is the big name among Bulldog receivers but Fred Gibson has more catches (23), more yards (374) and a higher yards-per-catch average (16.3 to 12.4). Damien Gary (16 receptions for 145 yards and two TDs) is also a quality pass-catcher. Then there's Reggie Brown, perhaps the most talented of Georgia's wideouts but a guy whose performance has never lived up to his potential.

So, what's the key to stopping this talented group of wideouts?

''We've got to work together,'' Miles said. ''Our guys (upfront) have got to put on pressure and we've got to cover however long it is until our guys get back there. It's going to take a complete team effort.''

In addition to exceptional talent, Georgia's wideout corps is unusually tall. That creates an extra problem for Vol defenders.

''It's a real challenge,'' Miles conceded. ''They're tall but we have tall receivers here at Tennessee, so we think we'll be ready for their receivers.''

Asked how defensive backs deal with bigger receivers, Miles replied: ''You've got to go out there and be physical with them ... take it to them before they take it to you.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer has been generally pleased with the secondary play to date. A notable exception occured in the waning minutes of last Saturday's game, when Arkansas QB Matt Jones found Richard Smith wide open for a game-tying 92-yard TD play.

''Overall, I would say it's been good,'' Fulmer said. ''But the bust Saturday night was very disappointing. It was a guy trying to do more than he was supposed to be trying to do. It wasn't a lack of effort or anything. It was just a real bad decision.''

Asked if this year's secondary has played as well as any the Vols have fielded since the 1998 national championship squad, Fulmer paused thoughtfully before responding.

''I don't know if we've done that yet,'' he said. ''Early in the season it looked like we were on that path. But we've had some inconsistencies back there that we shouldn't have had at different times.''

So, just how good are these Vol defensive backs?

''They sure have a chance to find out Saturday,'' Fulmer said.


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