Vol tackling is much improved

One of the oldest -- and truest -- cliche's in football is: "The team that blocks best and tackles best usually wins.''

The Tennessee Vols are proof of that. They blew 21 tackles in Game 3 vs. Florida and suffered a 30-13 loss as result. As the season progressed, however, UT's tackling progressed. Week by week, UT defenders grew better and better at the art of decking ballcarriers. That, as much as anything, enabled them to post back-to-back 24-0 shutouts of Vanderbilt and Kentucky in Games 11 and 12.

When it comes to tackling, practice makes perfect.

''The more you do it, the better you do it,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. ''We tackle in practice but we don't take anybody down fullspeed. When the speed changes (from practice to games), that's when you have problems tackling, and I think that was our problem early in the season.

''We worked on techniques and fundamentals and now, late in the season, I think this is one of the best-tackling teams we've had at Tennessee.''

Oddly enough, some of Tennessee's best athletes were some of the poorest tacklers earlier in the season. Chavis had a ready explanation for that.

''About 90 percent of it is mental,'' he said.

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