Grounding the ground game

Football fans love to see a defender launch into a form tackle that sends the opposing ball-carrier flying backwards. Larry Slade couldn't care less about form tackles this week, however.

Tennessee's secondary coach just wants to see his defensive backs – by whatever means necessary – bringing down Arkansas's tailback tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones this Saturday at Neyland Stadium. McFadden (321) and Jones (163) combined for 484 yards last weekend vs. South Carolina, and Slade does not want to see his defensive backs permit a replay this weekend.

"I don't care how they get 'em on the ground ... what it looks like," the Vol aide said, gradually breaking into a grin. "Let's just get 'em on the ground."

Since Arkansas rarely throws the football, some fans assume the Vols' secondary coach will be a minor player in the 12:30 showdown on Shields-Watkins Field. Quite the contrary. Slade and his troops are just as involved in defending the run as defending the pass.

"My job as a secondary coach is stopping big plays, be it run or pass," he said, adding that playing run support against Arkansas's potent ground attack "puts a lot more emphasis on being disciplined and being where you need to be."

Although the Hogs are a decidedly run-oriented team, they do have a few passes in their playbook. They use some of them, too, especially now that 6-foot-6, 220-pound Marcus Monk is back from preseason knee problems. He burned the Vols for eight catches, 137 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game.

"Marcus Monk made some critical third-down plays against us," Slade recalled.

Tennessee's starting corners – 6-foot-2 Brent Vinson and 6-foot DeAngelo Willingham – have the size to match up reasonably well with the towering Monk. The Vols' top reserve at cornerback, 5-foot-10 freshman Dennis Rogan, does not. Still, Slade believes Rogan will do just fine, based on his performance last weekend against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Dennis played really well," the Vol aide said. "He tackled well and when he got challenged in man-to-man he played well. He had an opportunity to get an interception – got his hands on the football – so I'm really pleased with the way he's come along."

So is John Chavis.

"He did good," the Vols' defensive coordinator said. "There were some things that he didn't quite know and a couple of checks that he didn't quite get but he'll get next time. We were pleased.

"He's a talented guy and we're lucky to have him. We're lucky to have a situation where we can go with the fifth and sixth guys gone (due to injury) and have a Dennis Rogan we can put in there."


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