Vol DBs face huge challenge

After facing two of the worst passing attacks in college football the past two weeks -- Mississippi State and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's secondary will face a huge challenge this week from a huge quarterback.

Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen might be the SEC's premier quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder leads the league in passing efficiency at 141.1. He has completed 174 of 304 passes (57.2 percent) for 2,208 yards and 24 touchdowns with only five interceptions. In addition, Lorenzen ranks first among active SEC quarterbacks in pass completions (662), second in career passing yards (8,074) and second in career touchdown passes (62).

Are Vol defensive backs worried? Maybe. But they're more excited than concerned.

''The kids look forward to this,'' secondary coach Larry Slade said. ''It's a challenge but our kids aren't going to take any different approach than they always do. They felt challenged to stop (Vandy receiver) Dan Stricker last time and it'll be the same way this week (with Lorenzen).''

Defensive coordinator John Chavis figures Tennessee's strong showing against Vanderbilt -- in terms of both pass rush and coverage -- may help as the Vols get ready to face Lorenzen & Company.

''If it (success vs. Vandy) carries over, obviously, it can be a factor,'' he said. ''Obviously, you can't blitz every down. You've got to be able to mix in some four-man rush and play a little zone here and there. We were able to do that (vs. Vandy) because of the pressure we were getting.''

Jabari Greer, who played brilliantly filling in for injured Willie Miles (groin pull) at cornerback last weekend, knows Lorenzen poses a big challenge. But Greer is more concerned with wide receiver Derek Abney, who ranks third among active SEC receivers in career catches (144) and fifth in career receiving yards (1,710).

''It's Abney (that's the focal point) for me,'' Greer said. ''He made a couple of good plays on me last year, so that motivates me to work in practice and get better.''

Although Vanderbilt's passing attack is relatively weak, Tennessee's defensive backs limited the Commodores to a paltry 7 completions in 18 attempts for 79 yards. Since almost half of those yards (33) came on one throw to a tight end who was being covered by a linebacker, UT's defensive backs were near-flawless.

''They played well,'' Slade said. ''The big thing was, there were very few -- if any -- critical errors out there. So, we're excited about the way they played.''

No one is more excited about the secondary's play than Chavis.

''You've got to be able to pressure the quarterback, and we got good pressure (in the Vandy game),'' Chavis said. ''But the secondary has been the strength of our defensive unit all year long, and I think it showed again today what kind of guys we have back there.''

The secondary's performance vs. Vandy was made even more remarkable by the fact the Vols were without star safety Rashad Baker, who has a knee injury that will sideline him until at least bowl season. Gibril Wilson and Mark Jones picked up the slack against the Commodores.

''It was a big blow (losing Baker),'' Chavis said. ''But we were really excited about those other safeties ... about what Mark Jones and Gibril Wilson were able to get done for us.''


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