Pressure is key vs. Woodson

The Georgia Bulldogs provided the blueprint for beating Kentucky last weekend by pressuring Andre Woodson all day and sacking him five times en route to a 24-13 victory.

Even equipped with the blueprint, though, the Tennessee Vols may be unable to get the job done this weekend in Lexington. A blueprint is only effective if you have the right workers – pass rushers in this case – needed to finish the job. Based on the first 11 games of 2007, Tennessee does not have them. The Vols rank dead last among SEC teams in sacks, a situation that is a source of considerable annoyance to their defensive coordinator.

"We're not accustomed to being at the bottom of the league in sacks," John Chavis said. "There was a long, long period of time when we did that (pressure the passer) better than anybody in the league."

Lately, however, Tennessee has been among the league's worst at pressuring the passer. The Vols registered just 17 sacks in 2006 and have just 14 thus far in 2007. That's one reason Tennessee ranks 11th among the 12 SEC teams in pass defense and 10th in pass-defense efficiency.

"Part of our struggle is the fact we're not as good at rushing the passer as we'd like to be and as good as we've been in the past," Chavis conceded. "That includes our pressure package. It's not just the guys upfront. A big part of what we like to do is pressure, and we haven't been able to do that at the level you need to in the SEC. Fourteen sacks in 11 ball games … that's not good."

By comparison, Georgia has 29 sacks this fall, including the five it registered last weekend against Kentucky.

"Any time you're able to sack a guy four or five times in a game that's big," Chavis said. "Obviously, Kentucky started off well (10-0 lead) but when they (Bulldogs) were able to get pressure and mix it up, they did a great job of mixing it up."

Tennessee has blitzed less than usual and played more zone coverage than usual this year. That's because the Vols lack pass rushers in the front four and lack experience in the secondary. Still, Tennessee blitzes and plays man coverage occasionally because, as Chavis notes, "You've got to have a mix there."

When the pass rush is weak, the coverage must be strong. Tennessee could upgrade its coverage by playing its "dime package" (six defensive backs) but there's a problem: After losing Demetrice Morley and Roshaun Fellows to disciplinary actions and losing Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson to knee injuries, the Vols don't have six healthy defensive backs.

"When you're dealing with numbers, as we are now, it's hard to rely on it (dime package) a lot because if you get another injury, then you're out of it completely," Chavis said. "We're basically playing five DBs and a linebacker now, where in the past we've been six DBs. We're not where we need to be because of numbers."

Speaking of numbers, look for Woodson to put up some impressive ones unless the Vols can locate a pass rush between now and Saturday.


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