Stats don't impress Chavis

The stat sheet says Tennessee's defense played awfully well in Saturday's first spring scrimmage. Defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't ready to say the same.

"Our guys competed," he said. "I'm a little bit disappointed that in the Orange Area we didn't play as well as we needed to. But they competed, and that's what we've got to have."

Statistically, at least, you'd have to say Vol defenders competed exceptionally well. They limited quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton (7 of 15, 55 yards), Nick Stephens (5 of 8, 54 yards) and B. J. Coleman (9 of 16, 95 yards) to a combined 21 completions in 39 attempts for 204 yards.

That's a 53.8 completion percentage and a 9.7 yards-per-catch average. By comparison, Tennessee's 2007 opponents completed 59.3 percent and averaged 11.5 yards per catch. Moreover, 48 of Saturday's passing yards could be traced to a missed tackle by a redshirt freshman defensive back.

Vol defenders did an even better job of shutting down the run on Saturday. Daryl Vereen (9 carries for 20 yards), Montario Hardesty (5 for 17), Lennon Creer (8 for 14), Kevin Cooper (2 for 2) and Arian Foster (2 for minus-2) combined for 51 yards on 26 attempts, an average of just 1.9 yards per rush. By comparison, UT opponents averaged 4.2 yards per carry last fall.

In fairness, it should be noted that the Vols are adjusting to a new offensive coordinator (Dave Clawson) and a new scheme (West Coast) this spring. That's why Chavis isn't letting Saturday's scrimmage statistics go to his head.

"We're a long way from where we need to be," he said. "But if we get this kind of effort on a consistent basis, then we've got a chance to get where we want to be.

"With the attitude we've got right now, I like where we are."

One area of obvious concern is the pass rush, particularly from the end position. The Vols registered just two sacks on Saturday – one by a tackle and one by a safety. The ends did not seem to be much of a factor, although Wes Brown and Ben Martin were credited with a pass deflection each.

Asked if he saw signs that the ends were providing sufficient pressure "off the edge," Chavis shook his head.

"Not a lot," he said. "But it's too early to say right now. I do know they're playing steady. We're not disappointed by what we're seeing."

Tennessee's defense suffered one setback in Saturday's scrimmage. Nevin McKenzie, who is battling Adam Myers-White for the No. 1 strongside linebacker spot, suffered a sprained knee that might sideline him for the rest of the spring.

"I really like the progress that he's made," head coach Phillip Fulmer said of McKenzie. "It's a shame he's going to miss this work because he definitely needs it. He and Adam have had a good competition going on.

"Either one of them could move to either other spot – particularly the Will linebacker spot – so it's been a real healthy situation to have there. I'm sorry he's going to miss some time because he's done well."


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