Face SEC's No. 3 defense

Tennessee has taken its fans on a roller coaster ride. Will the Vols do it again Saturday against Vanderbilt?

It's hard to figure the Vols. They get blown out by Florida and Alabama, yet blow out Georgia and Arkansas. They give up 234 rushing yards to Louisiana-Lafayette, but hold the nation's No. 2 ranked rushing team – the Razorbacks -- to 127.

The one constant is the Vols are undefeated at Neyland Stadium. A win over Vandy would give UT its first perfect home record since 1999.

After Tennessee's impressive win over Georgia, the Vols followed it up with a nice win at Mississippi State.

Is there cause for concern that UT might suffer a letdown against Vanderbilt?

``Sure,'' said defensive line coach Dan Brooks. ``You always are. It's a matter of how you handle failure and how you handle success. Coach (Phillip) Fulmer talks to our guys about that all the time.''

Brooks admitted the Vols were motivated by external forces against Arkansas.

``Everybody out there in the world – other than the guys in that little room – told you you can't do this thing (beat Arkansas),'' Brooks said. ``Then you get it done.

``Now, how do you respond to that? How do you handle success?

``When you're as young as we are in some spots, you don't know how they're going to respond. You're 10 games into the season so you're getting some experience. But I guess as coaches we find things to worry about.''

Is Brooks more fearful of younger players suffering a letdown than veterans?

``I don't know,'' Brooks said. ``I think sometimes the older guy may think he's arrived, but the younger guys, you're teaching and trying to get him to do things every day. … You have a mix and you worry about all of them.''

A major worry for Tennessee is Vandy receiver Earl Bennett, the SEC's all-time leading receiver. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass against the Vols two years ago in Neyland Stadium. He has 228 career catches with nine games of at least 10 catches and 100 receiving yards.

Quarterback MaKenzi Adams took over as the starter after Chris Nickson was injured and ineffective. Adams is 3-1 as a starter and had a career-high 193 passing yards against Kentucky.

The top running backs are Knoxville area products: Cassan Jackson-Garrison (500 yards) and Jeff Jennings (311), who has missed the last two games against UT.

Vanderbilt ranks third in the SEC in points allowed and total defense while racking up 27 sacks (second in the SEC) and recording 15 interceptions (tied or third).

End Broderick Stewart leads the team with five sacks. Cornerback D.J. Moore leads the team with five interceptions and UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said he's as good as any corner in the SEC. Linebacker Jonathan Goff leads the team with 86 tackles.

Vanderbilt held South Carolina to six points and 26 rushing yards. Despite losing to Kentucky, Vandy outplayed the Wildcats, getting 432 total yards to 351 and 30 first downs to 19 along with almost 36 minutes time of possession.

``Vanderbilt has an above average defense,'' said former UT quarterback Jim Bob Cooter, a graduate assistant in charge of scouting. ``Arkansas was 100 percent man and bringing pressure. Vanderbilt is a softer zone team. They'll let you get the ball downfield then tighten up.''

That means Tennessee's offense in the red zone must be sharp.

The Vols have outscored their last four home opponents 93-3 in the first half. A fast start on Senior Day should keep the Vols in the top spot for the East Division title.


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