Chavis vs. Chow

Tennessee's most celebrated defender concedes that the Vols will be facing an acknowledged mastermind in UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow Monday night at Pasadena.

Sophomore safety Eric Berry isn't worried, though. He figures the Vols can counter with a mastermind of their own.

After noting that opposing a guy with Chow's resume' and reputation "keeps us on our toes," Berry added: "It makes us feel good that you have John Chavis behind you. He's a mastermind, also."

Entering his 14th season as the Vols' defensive coordinator, Chavis will be matching wits with Chow throughout Monday evening's inter-sectional showdown. That should provide an interesting backdrop to the nationally televised match-up.

"It's going to be a pretty good game," Berry said. "Hopefully, we can get it done."

Tennessee's defense has a better chance to "get it done" than it would have had one year ago. The Vol secondary was so young and inexperienced 12 months ago that it was overwhelmed at times.

"Last year we were pretty much wide-eyed, didn't know what to expect," Berry said. "This year we've been through a season of SEC football, so we're ready for it all."

That's especially true of Berry, who was thrust into the starting lineup as a true freshman last September. He started Game 1 at nickel back, Game 2 at strong safety and Game 3 at cornerback before settling in at strong safety for Games 4 through 14. Naturally, all of that early-season switching was somewhat chaotic.

"Last year I was just running around, not even knowing the plays," he recalled. "I kind of learned them on the run. Now I know all the plays, know all the checks and all of the adjustments, so that's a big difference."

Berry and the other young defensive backs grew up a lot as the 2007 season headed down the home stretch. The added maturity showed up in their play throughout November and in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Asked if he could remember a turning point, Berry replied: "I would say the last five games of the season. We didn't play like we were supposed to the whole game but we started getting the picture and getting the point on how we were supposed to play Tennessee defense."

Although the Vol secondary has gone from team weakness to team strength in the past 12 months, Berry anticipates an all-out aerial assault from Chow's troops Monday night at Rose Bowl Stadium.

"I expect a lot of passing, of course," Berry said. "They're a hard-nosed football team with a lot of great athletes, as far as speed and quickness. We just have to come prepared to take care of that."

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