Tennessee Tackles hold their own

When Tennessee defensive tackles John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth were selected within the top 15 picks of last spring's NFL draft, many fans figured the tackle position would be a major weakness for the 2002 Vols.

So far, it hasn't been. Heading into Saturday's showdown with top-ranked Miami, Tennessee's tackles have been a bright spot.

Aubrayo Franklin leads all Vol defensive linemen with 40 stops, a total which ranks sixth on the entire team. These include five tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. He also has seven ''hurries'' to his credit.

''Aubrayo has done a tremendous job,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said this week. ''I'm really proud of where he is right now. Obviously, he's made a ton of progress since last year.''

Demetrin Veal was on pace to have an outstanding year until he was injured in the Georgia game. Though limited since then, he still boasts 31 tackles, including six for minus yardage, and three sacks. He also has six hurries to his credit.

Rashad Moore, who projected to be Tennessee's most productive tackle, has had a reasonably good year. He has 29 tackles, including four for lost yardage and a fumble forced. He hasn't provided quite as much pass rush as the coaching staff would've liked, however, registering just two sacks and one hurry.

All in all, however, Chavis is pleased with the play of his tackles.

''Very much so,'' the coordinator says. ''Rashad Moore, before he got the foot injury three years ago, was playing as well as the two guys (Henderson, Hayworth) we lost.

''We're missing a little bit of the speed in terms of the pass rush but you try to compensate for that with a little bit more pressure from time to time.''

Because the Vols don't get the rush from Veal, Franklin and Moore that they got a year ago from Henderson and Haynesworth, Tennessee's linebackers are having to blitz more than usual. Once linebackers Kevin Burnett and Kevin Simon sustained season-ending injuries, the Vols began to rely more on safety blitzes.

Don't be surprised if the Vols try the safety blitz several times this afternoon in an effort to contain Miami's potent passing attack.

''You've got to play to your personnel,'' Chavis says. ''We're not as quite as good at rushing the passer and we're not as good a blitz team but we've still got to bring pressure because we can't sit there and play with a four-man rush all day.''

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