Brooks seeks consistency

There are some things about football I don't understand, like: How did you shut down Georgia's offense but get steamrolled by Florida, Alabama and South Carolina?

How do you limit Georgia to 243 total yards (69 rushing) but get torched to the tune of 554 yards by Florida, 510 by Alabama and 501 by South Carolina?

I asked that question to defensive line coach Dan Brooks and defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell.

``If I had that answer, hey, we'd be a lot farther along because I'd fix it,'' Brooks said. ``We're working at it.''

But eight games into the season, the Vols haven't found a solution. It might not matter against Louisiana-Lafayette, which brings a 1-7 record into Saturday's homecoming game at Neyland Stadium.

It surely will matter against the three remaining SEC opponents – Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Caldwell said there was no scheme difference against Georgia and the rest of the teams UT has played.

Brooks said it's tough to put a finger on what's happening in college football.

``I don't know what the deal is, but it's crazy,'' Brooks said. ``You look at our game at Florida and our game with Georgia, then Georgia goes and beats Florida. What in the world is going on?''

It's obvious that the Vols haven't been as productive or as consistent as Brooks would like.

``I think we could be a good defense,'' he said. ``Statistically we're not going to be because of what we've done to this point. But I still believe that, because they do play hard and I think they're trying. It's not lack of effort. It's just not happening for them.''

Because it hasn't been happening, you wonder if the defense has lost confidence. Brooks wonders, too. He sees a defense practicing hard but not getting results.

``Are they confident all the time?'' Brooks said. ``I don't know that.''

Brooks said he believes the defense is playing aggressively, but he's not sure the defense has the same swagger as previous Tennessee defenses.

``It's hard to put a finger on sometimes,'' Brooks said. ``Chemistry is such a big thing in this game.''

UT's defense this season has been awful against the pass and susceptible to third-and-long plays. While the offense, at times, hasn't helped by having too many three-and-outs, the defense hasn't helped itself because it can't get off the field. It can't stop third-down conversions.

UT's defense, which is giving up almost 420 total yards per game, could have trouble against Louisiana-Lafayette's option offense. The option has long been a source of frustration for a John Chavis defense.

And the Ragin' Cajuns are adept at running the option, averaging 242.7 rushing yards per game behind quarterback Michael Desormeaux, who has also played receiver, defensive back and special teams.

``He's a great athlete,'' Brooks said. ``Just turn the film on. You don't have to watch a whole game to know No. 6 is the whole answer to their show offensively. He does a great job running the ball. He throws the football – a lot of play action. He runs some option. He'll just run a quarterback sweep and he's made yards against everybody they've played.

``And I think he's very courageous. He's not worried about getting hit. He actually reads the option some; you don't see that a lot anymore. He'll sit right there and ride the thing like the old (option) days. He's an excellent athlete.''

Desormeaux lines up in the shotgun a lot but does take some snaps under center. The Cajuns run some zone option, some speed option and some lead option.

Why is the option so tough to defend?

``We're not seeing it much and it's assignment oriented,'' Brooks said. ``You need to be sound against the option with the dive, quarterback and pitch. … Look at the days when people ran and ran the option. Fans didn't like it, but those teams won a lot of ballgames doing it.''

VOLS, AINGE IN SECOND-HALF SLUMP

In SEC games, UT quarterback Erik Ainge has been much more effective in the first half than the second half.

In the first half, Ainge has completed 72 percent of his passes for 800 yards, 11 yards per completion and five touchdowns with one interception.

In the second half, he has completed 53 percent of his passes for 332 yards, 7.7 yards per completion with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Ainge has not had a 100-yard second half in SEC play, and the Vols have been outscored in the second half 93-36 in SEC games.

In his last three SEC games, Ainge has completed 7 of 15, 10 of 21 and 12 of 23 in the second half (49 percent).

Moreover, UT has scored just two second-half touchdowns against SEC foes.

VOLS DON'T GIVE A FLIP ABOUT WINNING TOSS

When Tennessee loses the coin toss, the Vols are 3-0.

They lost the coin toss against Southern Miss, Georgia and Mississippi State.

They are 2-3 when winning the coin toss with victories over South Carolina and Arkansas State. They have scored one touchdown – against Arkansas State – on the first drive after winning the toss.

Also, UT lost the coin toss in overtime in the win over South Carolina.

WILLINGHAM READY FOR MORE AGGRESSIVE PLAY

Tennessee starting cornerback DeAngelo Willingham said he would like to play more aggressive but he's been instructed not to.

Asked about playing soft on the corners, Willingham said: ``We're just doing what they tell us to do.''

Would you like to play more bump-and-run coverage?

``Yes,'' he said. ``If we get our technique better than it is now, then they won't have no problem letting us do that.''

Willingham said it's frustrating playing teams that continually throw short passes but he said if you jump the route ``they'll try to beat you deep. You have to play where you're assigned to play first.''

Secondary coach Larry Slade said the first job of a defensive back is not to allow the big play.

That helps explain why UT has been so soft in pass coverage with young defensive backs.


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